Catholics & Party Politics

Same creed, opposing views

Both presidential campaigns are calling this election a choice between two starkly different visions of America. At least on that score both are right. The crucial question has to do with the role and scope of government, especially in the economy.

President Barack Obama contends that he wants to rebuild the economy “from the middle out,” rather than from the top down. Like his party, the president believes that the federal government has a limited but indispensable role to play in regulating commerce and the financial industry, protecting the environment, funding education, providing health-care coverage, and maintaining a safety net for the elderly and those who cannot provide for themselves. He would raise taxes on top earners to do this.

Mitt Romney, like his party, would severely limit the role of government in the economy and opposes any expansion of the welfare state. In fact, he wants to shrink it. He thinks the economy is built from the top down, and that the so-called job creators need to be rewarded and encouraged by lowering taxes and curtailing government regulation. He argues that the private sector is better equipped to meet the needs of the poor, and the federal government should play no role in providing health care to those who are currently uninsured. In addition, of course, Romney and Obama have opposing views on abortion rights, same-sex marriage, and critical aspects of foreign policy.

Obama and Romney have chosen running mates who reflect their political philosophies. Curiously, both vice presidential candidates are also Roman Catholics, the first time this has happened in American history. Like Vice President Joe Biden, Congressman Paul Ryan is a regular churchgoer who speaks openly of the role Catholicism has played in his life and in shaping his political convictions. Both men have suffered tragedies that evidently deepened their faith—Ryan was only sixteen when his father died, and Biden’s first wife and infant child were killed in a car accident. Yet despite the obvious sincerity of their Catholic faith, both men’s moral and political views reflect the positions of their political parties more than those of their church. In a venerable Catholic tradition, Biden has been an advocate for the poor, the elderly, and the marginalized, and a strong defender of the role of government in cushioning the harshness of modern economic life generally. Yet he has also been a staunch defender of abortion rights, and recently a champion of same-sex marriage. Ryan is a prolife firebrand who would outlaw abortion even in cases of rape or incest, and a firm opponent of same-sex marriage. Yet his views on the morality of capitalism, influenced by the eccentric philosopher Ayn Rand and the Austrian economist Friedrich von Hayek, are very hard to reconcile with Catholic social teaching. Pursuing one’s self-interest is the first principle of any just moral order, according to Rand and Hayek. Catholicism places our obligations to others foremost in any moral or social calculus.

How can these two ambitious politicians profess the same creed, one that places the poor and the disenfranchised at the center of our concerns but also defends the sanctity of every human life from the moment of conception? This is not an easy question to answer. There is a good deal of mutual incomprehension on the part of Biden’s Catholic supporters and Ryan’s, each side pointing to the log in the other’s eye. What can explain the reasoning of a Catholic who supports abortion on demand or that of a Catholic who thinks that helping the poor undermines their moral agency and weakens their resolve to help themselves? (It goes without saying that both candidates are committed to the retaliatory use of nuclear weapons, something their church rejects completely.)

There are cynical explanations for why Biden and Ryan champion the causes they do, but cynicism is too easy. The presence of these two Catholics on the presidential tickets reminds us of how complicated political choices always are, how often politics involves unpalatable tradeoffs, and how difficult it is to translate religious conviction into law and public policy. It also reveals once again that Catholic social teaching has no natural political home in the United States. Neither party can make room for both Catholicism’s communitarian social teachings and its traditional sexual morality. Ideally, then, Catholic Democrats and Catholic Republicans should serve as moral leaven in each party, and it is a great shame that neither Biden nor Ryan seem capable of contributing to that effort. The nation faces enormous challenges at home as well as the real danger of yet another war in the Middle East. Something more than posturing and paralysis is needed from Washington. Faith must help deepen our sense of shared purpose, not divide us further.



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This editorial succintly states the dilemma faced by Catholics commited to the whole body of Faith and the complete moral teachings of the Church in the political climate of today's America. Each major politcal party does need a strong Catholic voice to help guide its policies; neither seems to have that, even though, as you point out, each has a powerful political figure and practicing Catholic as their Vice Presidential candidate. What a wasted opportunity. This Catholic dilemma is the core reason why I am a political independent and have been for many years. The situation seems to force on Catholics a choice of "the least worst candidate" for President and for many other offices.

I have recently started reading COmmonweal and am shocked by the political bias.  YOur use of language to describe the candidates is vitriolic and extreme.  While forgiving Biden for going against church teaching and making excuses for his absurd use of his Catholicism you then act as if Paul Ryan is a horrible and decietful person.  This is absurd and unfortunately representative of a bias that the Catholic laity should avoid in politics.  There are many Catholics who beleive that the conservative apporach to our social problems would result in a more godly and generous world instead of empowering false gods (government) with the rights to mandate and control people.  SHow me a country with a controlling government (NOrth Korea, CUba and Venezuela come to mind) in which the people are free to practice their faith or live lives that are even half what the poor of the US have.  Instead they are starving and desperate populations with no religious freedom.  COmmonweal is a sad sate of CAtholic affairs.


I agree with Wayne's assessment of the article. It adequately scopes out the ven diagram of how Biden and Ryan fall within the scope of Catholic belief as well as the grey areas where they diverge from one another and the areas where they diverge from catholic teaching.I also agree that it is a shame that neither Biden nor Ryan provide  "moral leaven", but I would add that neither do most catholics when they enter the highly polarized arena of politics. Witness SB Gravely's comment which inflects precisely that.Humbly, I suggest that perhaps the trouble with articulating and witnessing the breadth of catholicism's "both/and" approach (i.e. both social issues and economic ones) is that the heart of the catholic view rests upon the view of the human person imbued with dignity and made in the image and likeness of God. The responsibility, outlook, and mission of such a person tends to get flattened in America to a cult of personality, self-improvement, self-fulfilment. In such a view, people and policies aren't just obstacles, but moments where we can moralize about their evils too in the attempt to be "holier than thou." In the end, prudential judgment gets flattened into "the lesser of two evils" and the cheap cyncism that accompanies evaluating that type of politics.One thing is for certain, the poor and the unborn didn't built that by themselves.


For starters, Catholicism doesn’t neatly fit into any box or political party, anymore than Jesus  would if he were forced to join a 2012 political party.  That said, being that the Catholic Faith is the keeper (in fullness), of the immutable teachings of Jesus Christ, any serious Catholic need only look at the issues/party platforms  at hand, and apply them accordingly to the party that either holds most of them or, if in both cases, when or if intrinsic evils are part of their platforms, vote with the side upholding the “lesser of the intrinsic evils.”

A   true Catholic is always, “Catholic First.”

So, let’s consider the issues at hand, starting with Catholic communitarian social teachings.  In a perfect world, where we all loved and served God, the “one size fits all” could actually work.   “Let’s just throw it all into one pot and use as needed, according to our needs.”   Outside of Catholic monastic  monasteries (where that is the case), any bets how long that would last in America?  One need look no further than a busy afternoon at a Costco when the free food samples are flowing.  Rest assured, despite those who line up and wait their turn for a small sample, among them will always be the ones who barge in and grab as much as two hands can hold.

What does work, and in accordance with Catholic Social Teaching, is subsidiarity and solidarity, together,  both the hallmark of Paul Ryan’s plan, which by the way, is also approved by his Bishop.  Farther Barron of Word of Fire has also weighed in, with a short and excellent video explaining not only the “First Things vs Commonweal debate”, but even more so, the correct teaching of the Catholic Church.

It also needs to be pointed out that Ryan is not and never was an Objectivist.   One can easily agree with Ayn Rand’s philosophy on free markets or Austrian Economics while totally disagreeing with a selfish Godless personal philosophy.  In addition, who teaches the dignity and necessity of work more than the Catholic Church?  How any Catholic can justify the recently imperialistic “executive order “work no longer necessary for welfare” is beyond logical thinking and the best interests of the least among us.

The reality is, we are drowning in debt of which the bulk will be passed on to our children.  Yes, we all need health care, but not a plan mired in taxes, hidden regulations, and government calling the shots.  Part of the Republican platform is not just a repeal of the ACA, but a “redo” of it, in a more affordable and higher quality way for all.  We should all want that.

As for the always hot button issues of abortion and same sex marriage, it’s not necessary to debate the differences between Ryan and Biden.  Life, and marriage between a man and women, is the heart of the gospels.  Abortion and gay ‘marriage’ are clearly against the teachings of the Catholic Church, no exceptions, ever, even in those rare cases of rape and incest.  That said, it’s easy to understand why the rape and incest inclusions are beyond radical to our American Culture. 

Let’s take the worst case scenario:  brutal rape of a 13 year old resulting in pregnancy.   Would even the “best” Catholic allow his or her daughter to endure such a pregnancy, even if the baby were going to be put up for adoption?  I suspect only the ones who believe in something our culture can’t and probably will never grasp; true martyrdom.  Yes, it’s a heavy cross indeed, but is it heavier than the one Christ or His mother carried?    Perhaps this real life story of a nun, Sister Lucy Vertursac,  raped in Serbia in 1995 will help at least a few understand how a real Catholic discerns a gut wrenching decision;  a profound  example of Christian Martyrdom.  This letter was published in an Italian Newspaper. 


"I am Lucy, one of the young nuns raped by the Serbian soldiers. I am writing to you, Mother, after what happened to my sisters Tatiana, Sandria, and me. Allow me not to go into the details of the act. There are some experiences in life so atrocious that you cannot tell them to anyone but God, in whose service I had consecrated my life nearly a year ago. My drama is not so much the humiliation that I suffered as a woman, not the incurable offense committed against my vocation as a religious, but the difficulty of having to incorporate into my faith an event that certainly forms part of the mysterious will of Him whom I have always considered my Divine Spouse. Only a few days before, I had read "Dialogues of Carmelites" and spontaneously I asked our Lord to grant me the grace of joining the ranks of those who died a martyr of Him. God took me at my word, but in such a horrid way! Now I find myself lost in the anguish of internal darkness. He has destroyed the plans of my life, which I considered definitive and uplifting for me, and He has set me all of a sudden in this design of His that I feel incapable of grasping. When I was a teenager, I wrote in my Diary: Nothing is mine, I belong to no one, and no one belongs to me. Someone, instead grabbed me one night, a night I wish never to remember, tore me off from myself, and tried to make me his own . . . It was already daytime when I awoke and my first thought was the agony of Christ in the Garden. Inside of me a terrible battle unleashed. I asked myself why God had permitted me to be rent, destroyed precisely in what had been the meaning of my life, but also I asked to what new vocation He was calling me. I strained to get up, and helped by Sister Josefina, I managed to straighten myself out. Then the sound of the bell of the Augustinian convent, which was right next to ours, reached my ears. It was time for nine o'clock matins. I made the sign of the cross and began reciting in my head the liturgical hymn. At this hour upon Golgotha's heights,/ Christ, the true Pascal Lamb,/ paid the price of our salvation. What is my suffering, Mother, and the offense I received compared to the suffering and the offense of the One for whom I had a thousand times sworn to give my life. I spoke these words slowly, very slowly: May your will be done, above all now that 1 have no where to go and that I can only be sure of one thing: You are with me. Mother, I am writing not in search of consolation, but so that you can help me give thanks to God for having associated me with the thousands of my fellow compatriots whose honor has been violated, and who are compelled to accept a maternity not wanted. My humiliation is added to theirs, and since I have nothing else to offer in expiation for the sin committed by those unnamed violators and for the reconciliation of the two embittered peoples, I accept this dishonor that I suffered and I entrust it to the mercy of God. Do not be surprised, Mother, when I ask you to share with me my "thank you" that can seem absurd. In these last months I have been crying a sea of tears for my two brothers who were assassinated by the same aggressors who go around terrorizing our towns, and I was thinking that it was not possible for me to suffer anything worse, so far from my imagination had been what was about to take place. Every day hundreds of hungering creatures used to knock at the doors of our convent, shivering from the cold, with despair in their eyes. Some weeks ago, a young boy about eighteen years old said to me: How lucky you are to have chosen a refuge where no evil can reach you. The boy carried in his hands a rosary of praises for the Prophet. Then he added: You will never know what it means to be dishonored. I pondered his words at length and convinced myself that there had been a hidden element to the sufferings of my people that had escaped me as I was almost ashamed to be so excluded. Now I am one of them, one of the many unknown women of my people, whose bodies have been devastated and hearts seared. The Lord had admitted me into his mystery of shame. What is more, for me, a religious, He has accorded me the privilege of being acquainted with evil in the depths of its diabolical force.I know that from now on the words of encouragement and consolation that I can offer from my poor heart will be all the more credible, because my story is their story, and my resignation, sustained in faith, at least a reference, if not example for their moral and emotional responses. All it takes is a sign, a little voice, a fraternal gesture to set in motion the hopes of so many undiscovered creatures. God has chosen me-may He forgive my presumption-to guide the most humble of my people towards the dawn of redemption and freedom. They can no longer doubt the sincerity of my words, because I come, as they do, from the outskirts of revilement and profanation.I remember the time when I used to attend the university at Rome in order to get my masters in Literature, an ancient Slavic woman, the professor of Literature, used to recite to me these verses from the poet Alexej Mislovic: You must not die/because you have been chosen/ to be a part of the day. That night, in which I was terrorized by the Serbs for hours and hours, I repeated to myself these verses, which I felt as balm for my soul, nearly mad with despair. And now, with everything having passed and looking back, I get the impression of having been made to swallow a terrible pill. Everything has passed, Mother, but everything begins. In your telephone call, after your words of encouragement, for which I am grateful with all my life, you posed me a very direct question: What will you do with the life that has been forced into your womb? I heard your voice tremble as you asked me the question, a question I felt needed no immediate response; not because I had not yet considered the road I would have to follow, but so as not to disturb the plans you would eventually have to unveil before me. I had already decided. I will be a mother. The child will be mine and no one else's. I know that I could entrust him to other people, but he-though I neither asked for him nor expected him-he has a right to my love as his mother. A plant should never be torn from its roots. The grain of wheat fallen in the furrow has to grow there, where the mysterious, though iniquitous sower threw it. I will fulfill my religious vocation in another way. I will ask nothing of my congregation, which has already given me everything. I am very grateful for the fraternal solidarity of the Sisters, who in these times have treated me with the utmost delicacy and kindness, especially for never having asked any uncareful questions. I will go with my child. I do not know where, but God, who broke all of a sudden my greatest joy, will indicate the path I must tread in order to do His will. I will be poor again, I will return to the old aprons and the wooden shoes that the women in the country use for working, and I will accompany my mother into the forest to collect the resin from the slits in the trees. Someone has to begin to break the chain of hatred that has always destroyed our countries. And so, I will teach my child only one thing: love. This child, born of violence, will be a witness along with me that the only greatness that gives honor to a human being is forgiveness.Through the Kingdom of Christ for the Glory of God.


Perhaps it’s time for all Catholics to ask the rarely if ever asked question (s), how Catholic am I, really?  Am I radical, counter cultural, willing to pick up my cross and follow Christ, regardless of its weight ,  shame, or life changing consequences as Christ asked of all of us?  If called, would, or could, I say yes to martyrdom?

Lastly, if the most we are asked as well blessed Americans is to vote for the party most closely associated with the teachings of Christ and His Church, are we even able to do that much, or will our ideologies and comfortable lifestyles continue to blind us? 

Will we as Catholics, to whom more has certainly been given, in probably the most important election of our lifetimes, be voting “Catholic or comfortable?”  The “Catholic” decision is beyond obvious .





Wayne's approach seems best, putting church ahead of politics, rather than vice versa, as most of us are doing these days. In 2008 I first decided I couldn't vote Republican, then after strongly considering not voting, I decided to vote for Barack Obama.  I can't see balancing the budget, caused largely by Wall Street excesses, on the backs of the present day poor.  I'm not impressed with the Republican's expressed concern about tomorrow's poor, while they are all too ready to let today's poor starve (including WIC babies). So I'm where I was in 2008.  I suspect I'll again go with the president, but I haven't ruled out not voting. 

Romney no one is sure about. He withholds information on himself.  He doesn't appear to follow the Republican platform on abortion.  Instead he appears to follow the Mormon outlook: basically against it in most but not all cases, such as rape or when mother's life is at stake.  They also don't hold that human life begins at conception; they say there is no scriptural evidence for this.  Mormon leaders have also said some very negative things about Catholicism.  What does Romney think? This would be good for our bishops to know.   


Of course I meant to say something like, "I can't see solving our budget problems, caused largely by Wall Street excesses, by taking away necessities from present day poor..."

Patricia's commentary was thoughtful and, at the level of personal Catholicism, the theology seems impeccable.

What is under consideration, however, is public policy.  Religious freedom involves both rights and obligations -- most particularly the rights to personal religion and personal conscience and the obligations to respect the personal religions and consciences of others.

I want to address two specific issues: abortion and health care.

It was stated that Biden supports "abortion on demand." That is an unfair characterization. What he supports is allowing others to have the religious freedom to make this decision themselves, based on their own personal religions and consciences and life situations.

Catholicism asserts that human life begins at conception.  This is a religious definition, however, and not an unchallengeable scientific definition. What is the difference between life in general and human life in particular?  The most obvious biological feature which defines humanity is the human brain, or, more specifically, the human cerebral cortex, which does not form until the end of the 2nd trimester and is not functional until even later than that.

Is abortion of an embryo or fetus, lacking a cerebral cortex really "baby killing?"  According to a particular religious definition -- yes.  According to a highly defensible scientific definition, consistent with other religious beliefs -- no.  In a secular society, is it religious freedom to criminalize abortion or is it religious tyranny?

The moving example of Sister Luc Vertursac is certainly something which should and does speak directly to the Catholic conscience. But it's one thing to use that as an example to inform one's own conscience, when one is personally faced with a situation such as that.  It's something else to use that example to inflict a 9 month pregnancy, carrying the offspring of a monster, on one's own 13 year old daughter (Rosemary's Baby being an apt metaphor).  But it's beyond the pale to inflict that on someone else's 13 year old daughter, especially when that other family isn't even Catholic.

Again, one person's "religious freedom" is another's religious tyranny.

Unlike Ryan, Biden remembers the problems of Catholic politicians in the pre-JFK era, and Biden is informed by JFK, who arguably made it possible for there now to be a heavily Catholic US Supreme Court and two Catholic Vice Presidential candidates. Prior to JFK, the thought of Catholics in positions of great political power was frankly fightening to many Americans, who did not themselves want to be forced to follow the marching orders of the Pope. 

JFK proved to Americans that a President could be privately Catholic, while not inflicting his Catholicism on the governed.   JFK remains a hero to many of us, despite his private failings, and deserves credit for blazing a trail now followed by Ryan.  Just as Ryan was undeniably informed by Ayn Rand, Biden was informed by JFK.

Moving on to health care, there are currently 45,000 deaths per year in the USA attributable to lack of health insurance:

Government programs to increase health insurance coverage reduce the number of these preventable deaths:

ObamaCare, if not repealed, will expand coverage to more than half of the currently uninsured.  It would be greater than this, were it not for the stated intentions of some Republican governors (e.g. Rick Perry) to refuse to expand their Medicaid programs, as a result of the recent Supreme Court decision allowing states to opt out of the Medicaid expansion under ObamaCare.

Patricia notes that the Republicans have some type of secret plan to improve the health care system, as an alternative to ObamaCare.  I say "secret" because the only ideas they have offered are to (1) expand the ability of insurance companies to offer health insurance across state lines and (2) institute tort/malpractice reform. Neither of these plans would do anything to expand health care coverage or lower costs.  

All health insurance systems require putting together a network of providers, i.e. doctors and hospitals. An insurance company based in Nebraska might well be able to put together a viable, cost-effective provider network in Nebraska, but this doesn't help residents of California or New York or Florida, who require California provider networks, New York provider networks, and Florida provider networks.  There is already a ton of competition among providers to put together the largest, best, and most affordable provider networks in each of these states.  Opening the "competition" to a Nebraska insurance company wouldn't do anything at all to improve the quality or lower the costs of the respective networks.

As for malpractice/tort reform, it's already been done -- thirty years ago in California, more recently in Texas.  In neither case was there demonstrably beneficial impact, with respect to cost of health care and/or use of "defensive medicine."  This is because actual damages (as opposed to the punitive and pain and suffering damages, which are severely restricted under California and Texas law) are sufficiently great and the professional, reputation damage resulting from a malpractice claim are so great as to provide all the incentive a physician needs to practice just as much "defensive medicine" with malpractice reform as in its absence.  This doesn't mean that malpractice reform is not a good idea, but it does mean that malpractice reform doesn't do anything substantive from the standpoint of increasing coverage of the uninsured or lowering health care costs.

Stating it another way, the secret GOP health care plan is just as former US Representative stated, to wit:  "Just die"

45,000 preventable deaths per year. 15 times the total lost in 9/11.  The response to 9/11 was to start two Asian land wars which will ultimately incur 3 trillion dollars or more in expense, when the most effective measure ever taken to prevent another 9/11 was to install locks on airplane cockpit doors.  And yet providing health insurance to all Americans is unaffordable and to be condemned as a socialist government takeover.

The teachings of John XXIII have also informed Joe Biden's Catholicism:

64. The public administration must therefore give considerable care and thought to the question of social as well as economic progress, and to the development of essential services in keeping with the expansion of the productive system. Such services include road-building, transportation, communications, drinking-water, housing, medical care, ample facilities for the practice of religion, and aids to recreation. The government must also see to the provision of insurance facilities, to obviate any likelihood of a citizen's being unable to maintain a decent standard of living in the event of some misfortune, or greatly in creased family responsibilities.

- Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach CA

Link correction.

In my previous post, I asserted:

Moving on to health care, there are currently 45,000 deaths per year in the USA attributable to lack of health insurance:

Government programs to increase health insurance coverage reduce the number of these preventable deaths:

By mistake, I gave the same link twice. The correct 2nd link is as follows:

I regret the error.  - Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach CA

With all due respect Larry, I responded to the topic at hand as a Catholic.  Keeping on topic, this is a Catholic debate regarding the giant chasm between the historic " first two Catholic VP Candidates.  I do however greatly appreicate your assesment of my "correct Catholic Theology", as in doing so, you helped make my case.

You ask, "Is abortion of an embryo or fetus, lacking a cerebral cortex really "baby killing?"  Semantics are of little or no importance, as the only thing that matters is that "whatever " is being killed, it's FULLY HUMAN.  Be it a one minute old embryo, a one minute old newborn,  or a one hundred and one person of senitlity, the human genetics remain unchanged.  Even if we were debating this at the secular level, as Americans, we belong to a country that was built upon the protection of all human life, and not at various stages.

As Catholics, it's our obligation to vote in the best interest of public policy, regardless of how our non-Catholic brothers and sisters vote.  The crux of being Catholic is to be God's Light to others, not to join in with the culture and stay popular.  To imply that we should vote as others in the culture would want us to, and not with a Catholic Conscience, is beyond absurd.  The essence of Catholicism it to follow Christ, not the crowds!  That said, only a heretic would take marching orders from anyone but Christ and His Chruch, and that includes JFK, who, by his free will, like the rest of us, was/is free to say and do as he pleases, albeit not without consequences. 

I find it most interesting that you focus on 45,000 deaths per year related to people without health care, and yet make no mention of 120,000 deaths per MONTH by abortion, a third at least, or close to your 45,000 number, are sentient/pain feeling "human lives."  What politicians are looking out for those lives?  Certainly not the ones who started out staunchly pro life (including the Democrats), only to cave to the culture when abortion started to equate to votes and power.

My intention is not to get into a long abortion debate, but mostly to appeal to the Catholic (well-formed via the heart of the Church), conscience.  Mother Teresa used to say, "Abortion always involves two victims, a dead baby and a dead conscience."

Having once had a dead conscience, I can relate.  No doubt it's much of the reason I do what I can to bring those dead consciences back to life, a feat easily done by one's will, the great mercy of God, and the gift of being Catholic.  As I said in my previous post, as Catholics, we were given much, and much is expected. 

I also realize that above all things, faith is a gift.  All Catholics don't yet have the gift of faith, so plesae don't take offense in my suggestion of  how to get it:  Just do it!  Really, live as the church teaches, vote as the church teaches, and obedience will have personal rewards beyond your wildest dreams, one of them the gift of faith. 

 As Catholics, we are the only people in the world who have the gift of the mass and all seven sacraments; a supernatual treasure chest of power at which most of the world scoffs. It's ours to use or lose, but at great peril and of our own free will.  Through the Eucharist/Real Presence, we have an added view of the world via the eyes of Christ, as we are truly present in one with Him.  While the gifts are extraordinary, so is the responsibility, especially to protect the least among us, as all social justice, as well as peace,  starts in the womb (the reason I made this response more heavy on abortion than the other social issues).

I'll let Rev. Jesse Jackson ask the last question, one that he asked in 1977 when he supported the Hyde Amendment.  It just might explain what kind of a world we get when we live for government and a secular society, and not Christ.

  "What happens to the mind of a person, and the moral fabric of a nation, that accepts the aborting of the life of a baby without a pang of conscience? What kind of a person and what kind of a society will we have 20 years hence if life can be taken so casually? It is that question, the question of our attitude, our value system, and our mind-set with regard to the nature and worth of life itself that is the central question confronting mankind. Failure to answer that question affirmatively may leave us with a hell right here on earth."



Hi Patricia. I was just now listening to BBC radio, which was relating the story of the young Christian girl in Pakistan, in prison for allegedly burning a Quran. Sacred scripture obviously has different meaning and importance to Muslims as to Catholics.

That's the end game of religious tyranny, which is most assuredly, to use your own example, what we will suffer as a nation, the day we demand that the 13 year old daughters of non-Catholics be forced to carry to term and deliver the progeny of rape monsters, through criminalization of her parents and doctors.

The Rev. Jackson was speaking through the prism of his own personal religious definition of personhood, and he was speaking in the context of the Hyde Amendment, as opposed to the context of Roe v. Wade.  He was speaking also of aborting a "baby," which, as I noted previously, does not connote the same thing to all religious and moral people, based on both scientific and religious principles. 

You casually dismiss the 45,000 fully human lives lost per year, owing to the absence of health insurance, through a numeric comparison with abortions. By your reasoning, it's OK that the former lives are lost, ostensibly, because these lives are lost in a country where Roe v Wade is the law of the land.  So long as the latter is the case, the former is not a concern. 

Same creed; opposing views; to reference directly the title of the editorial to which we both respond, recalling the encyclical of John XXIII.

Your statement about "cav[ing] to the culture, when abortion started to equate with votes and power," applies equally to Republicans as is does to Democrats, and it most certainly applies to the current Republican candidate for President, a strong supporter of Roe v Wade, in a prior political incarnation.

- Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach CA

[I apologize in advance for offering the following as an addendum, as opposed to incorporating it in the original reply.  I wish that I could simply have edited the above comment -- alas, this is not allowed by the CW online software].

I want to address the following comment of Patricia:

"...only a heretic would take marching orders from anyone but Christ and His Chruch, and that includes JFK..."

The President (and Vice President) of the United States swear(s) to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.  Period.  This is the reason why JFK felt compelled to reassure the Greater Houston Ministerial Association.  Had JFK addressed the same group, and stated that he'd be taking his marching orders from "His Church" (capital "C"), he'd have lost the election, and deservedly so.  As I noted earlier, were it not for JFK, it's doubtful that we'd have today a majority Catholic Supreme Court and Catholic Vice Presidential Candidates of two opposing political parties.

Personal morality and personal religion should be respected, but it is a slippery slope to impose one's own religious belief on others, especially in matters of personal, family, and religious freedom.

- Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach CA

Mr. Weisenthal has set forth a well reasoned and thoughtful analysis of the health care/contraception/abortion,  (HCC&A) debate. It remains a core teaching of The Church that ultimately onle the individual conscience dictates one's faith and salvation. Christ never told anyone "I saved you"  but said repeatedly "your faith has saved you ". The ability and resources to exercise freedom of conscience and religion in HCC&A   matters is the core of the liberal Cathoilic religious /political freedom position. If the Bishop's/Conservative Rebublican position on HCC&A were to become the law of the USA, then the wealthy, (as they did before Roe) will get their contraceptives and abortions in those "European style socialist countries" such as Italy,and why not Rome?  The poor in the USA would continue to suffer with no real religious/political freedom to sin. Again, I repeat, is there a camel and a needle here somewhere?

 I am breaking a long time promise to myself never to reply to an online essay from this or any other publication or to reply to comments thereon. However, I do not  believe that the editors essay is fair  in arguing that  both Vice- President Biden and Representative Ryan can be equally criticized for failing to be in step in matters with Catholic teaching - Biden on his recognition of a woman's right to choose and the rights of homosexuals to marry and Ryan's denial of the repeated calls by the Church through various encyclicals to a message of social justice in all aspects of our lives. I believe that Biden's positions on issues of  personal choice in a diverse society cannot be criticized to the same extent as  Ryan's stance on public policy issues which  deny totally the teachings of the Gospels calling for  social justice for all and instead rely on the atheistic economic  priciples of Rand and Hayek .

Larry's comments recognize this distinction between issues of public policy and personal choice and are right on the mark. He recognizes that Mr. Ryan in his public policy statements most clearly articulated  in his budget rejects the repeated messages of the Gospels and the the encyclicals in its willingness to cut programs to the poor, the homeless, and the jobless as well as eliminating the ACA and thus, denying millions of people affordable health care. Patricia in suppoting Ryan's stance on economic policy on the grounds of "subsidiarity" ignores that he has been roundly criticized in the USCCB's statement on April 17 finding the budget to be "unjust and wrong" . See Huffington Post 04/18/2012  " Catholic Bishops Say Ryan BudgetFails Moral Test". It has been further criticized by over ninety members of the Georgetown University facuty in a letter to Mr. Ryan pointing out that he missates the principles of "subsidiarity" as a justification for his budget. In the letter, the theologians and scholars , note that in apppealing to the " Catholic Teaching  on  'subsidiarity ' as a rationale for gutting governement programs, you are profoundly misreading Church teaching. Subsidiarity is not a free pass to dismantle government programs and abandon the poor to their own devices" ..... According to Pope Benedict the XVI: 'Subsidiarity must remain closely linked to the principle of solidarity and vice versa.' ". The full letter with signatures can be found at www.huffingtonpost.com2012/04/24paul-ryan-challenged .

I beleive that Larry has it just right when he states that " Religious freedom involves both rights and obligations-most particularly the rights to personal religion and personal conscience and the obligations to respect the personal religions and consciences of others.... Personal morality and religion should be respected but it is a slippery slope to impose one's reluigious belief on others especially in matters of personal, family and religious freedom." Vice-President Biden recognizes that as a public servant governing  a country of diverse religious beliefs and where Roe v. Wade is the law of the country on the issue of abortion and many states have recognized same sex marriage he needs to recognize the rights of all citizens to be governed in these matters by their conscience.


Patricia how important is the eight commandment. When you say that Obama has taken away the work componenet of welfare you should check your facts. Actually the request by the governors had to include a plan to increase employment of welfare recipients. Repeating mis-information is bearing false witness.

Don where  in the teachings of the Catholic Church is this found?

It remains a core teaching of The Church that ultimately onle the individual conscience dictates one's faith and salvation

What the church does teach is that our individual conscience must be WELL FORMED from faith and prayer, guided by the Holy Spirt, guided by the authorative teachings of the church (not what the culture, feelings, or our personal opinions dictate (Catechism # 1745).  References can be found in the following link.

But in fairness to you, from your post, you appear to admit to not following the Catholic Church of Rome but rather your own "liberal/political" position,  whatever that is.  You certainly have the right and free will do do so.  My point is that it's very unfair to use it in an agrument against official Catholic Church Teachings, which is what is under discussion.

Tom you appear to be just as misguided, biased or clueless.  For starters, Ryan is a devout Catholic, has denounced any "following" of Rand's atheistic philosophy, and is approved by his own Bishop, the only one to whom he is accountable.  Do you really thing you will advance your agument by citing liberal professors, Huffpo, and liberal Bishops?  Com' on, we aren't stupid here.  I also linked the reference for Father Barron, a holy Catholic Priest in good standing, who totally agrees that Ryan is on targert with the teachings of the Catholic Church.  He even gives the chruch references in his short talk; suggest you take a listen.

And Larry, I have so many disagreements with you post not sure where to start.

You may think that Kennedy was "Catholic Progress", but the reality is, JFK may well be the most responsbile person for taking God out of the Public Square, and the bogus "separation of church and state" only in play because of a 1947 anti-Catholic KKK bigot on the Supreme Court, Hugo Black.  Constitutional Scholar Mark Levin explains it well (start at the 1:50 minute mark)

Had JFK not caved, it's almost a given that many Catholics would not be as liberal as they are.  It wouldn't make any difference if we had Catholics on the courts or holding political office, as long as Catholics voted like Catholics, in accordance with Church Teachings.  If JKL was successsful in anything, it was in leading Catholics away from their Church. This is one of the best articles ever written on the topic.

All said, one can still fully practice the faith as POTUS, without any fear of a Theocracy.  Last time I checked it was we the people who elected our representatives, which is why voting matters so much, and why we, especially as Catholics, are called to such an awesome and critical responsibility.  Who we elect determines who or what kind of government we get, consequently, what kind of laws get passed.  Like or not, Congress is nothing more than a reflection of us. We put them there, and we can vote them out.  The president is only one part of how our country is governed.  What is amazing is that as 60 million strong, if American Catholics actually voted per church teachings, we could shape this country far more than any Catholic President.

Larry you also compare a Muslim law of burning a Quran against a Christian law of abortion, both with 13 year olds.  You again only make a stronger case as to why Christians need to be the light in the world.   Christainty is based upon Jesus Christ, the savior of world, God incarnate, Muslim Law based upon one mortal man.  Who's going to protect the 13 year old in America when she burns a Quran?  If we are lucky, it will be the same people who protect all human life, because all human life is sacred.  I made it more than clear that very few parents who had a 13 year old daughter pregnant from a rape would not have her aborted.  Again, HOW we vote determines the law of the land.  Even if Roe v Wade is overturned, abortion would simply go back to the states.  Short of the 2nd coming of Jesus, I think it's probably fair to say that we won't be "Christain Theoracrized" in America any time soon.  

We will get the culture and the laws that reflect us, how we vote or don't vote.  That still doesn't exempt Catholics from the responsibility of voting in accordance with church teachings, even more so as we see more and more examples of losing our religous freedom.  What we should all fear is a secular society; a guarantee for tyranny of which we are quickly approaching.

All said, the bigger war is not who wins the elections, or even how many babies are aborted, or how many hours we worked the soup kitchens.  Anyone who has read the bible knows how it ends, we win! 

Jesus taught that life was more important than anything, and to render to Ceasars what is Ceasars, and to God what is Gods.  Human Life belongs to God and to God alone.  It's not ours to destroy,  thwart, contracept, or  use for experiments.  To do so, we do not only at our own peril, but at the peril of our nation, and most of all, at the risk of our eternal salvaton. 

Perhaps that sounds a bit harsh, but it's true, it's what Jesus taught.  Mother Teresa often taught that we don't have to be successful, just faithful.  We all know which party has abortion and gay marriage as a party platform, and we know what the church teaches.  To try to rationalize an intrinsic evil like abortion away with lesser social justice inequalities is to quite honestly, be deceived.   We certainly all have free choice, albeit,  not without consequences. 

If there was every an election to "stand up and be Catholic", this would it.







I apologize for my typos (wish this software had an edit function), and my sins (Patricia Branigen).


Give me a break! Ryan is not pro-life. The only life he is interested in reverencing is pre-birth life.

Abortion may be in the party platforms, but it's not on the ballot. We don't elect Supreme Court justices, and court we now have may be heavily Catholic, but it's also politically conservative, so unlikely to reverse an earlier decision.

Other issues, like the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, SNAP -- these are all much more accessible to the political process.



Thank you to Larry Wiesenthal who said it better than I could.  



I think Larry and Patricia make good points. Here are mine:

1. It was mentioned that as Catholics we should follow the Gospel of Christ, as well as all the teachings of the Catholic Church. This should be our guideline, when we go to the polls to vote for a Presidential, Vice Presidential and Congressional candidate. Unfortunately, what is missing from these suggestions is reality and the moral dilemma each Catholic faces with their social political decisions. No one issue defines a candidate, whether Presidential or Congressional. Some are pro-life, but believe that termininating a fetus, that is threatening the life of the mother with certaintly, while the fetus cannot survive under any circumstances (in or outside the mother), is morally justified (the Phoenix case). Some are pro-choice, but are against gay marriage.

Within both parties, there is no complete consensus on every issue. This reflects the Catholic populace as well. Most Catholics believe in the fundamental principles of our faith, but differ on certain moral issues (e.g., contraception, abortion under certain circumstances, gay marriage, and the right of the diovorsed and remarried to have access to the sacrament of reconciliation and Eucharistic reception under specific circumstances...even Cardinal Ratzinger offered a solution to this problem, but as pope has not).

For these reasons, Cardinal Ratzinger also wrote, one must use their practical reason and the concept of proportionalilty when makine political voting decisions. 

2. All Catholics are not "infected" with the ills of the liberal secular world, like a cancer destroying our ability to function. Let's discount the grace and guidance of the Holy Spirit for those who are serious and faithful Catholics. This does not mean that a liberal secular world (e.g, the West) does not influence human behavior or that it does not distort our practical reason. Indeed, Western society has grown more promiscuous and there is a tendency to minimizes evil. However, Catholics are not losing the game of salvation. We must resist the tendency to see the world as evil to the point where the good is totally lost. God made the world and us, and called it good. I refuse to "write off" Catholics because they disagree with certain moral teachings of the Church for good and just reasons (philosophical, theological and anthropological). Those that disagree are not all invincibly ignorant, have a distorted reason or are infected with the evil of the secular world. They are not unfaithful. We are all part of the body of Christ and when most of His body disagrees with some Church teachings, then this is a time for serious reflection. 

3. I applaud the decision of the French nun who was raped to carry the child to term and care for it with unconditional love.  However, in a rape case, it is morally permissible to take the "morning after pill" based on a negative pregnancy test within a few days of the incident. Think about this teaching. A pregnancy test can only detect pregnancy after implantation, not before! Conception is possible and the fertilized ovum will not implant. This teaching is highly controversial and inconsistent with the negative injunction against any form of abortion (including the use of contraceptive pills that supposively act in the same way by making the lining of the uterus inhospitable to implantation). Unreasonable, contradictory or morally justifiable? You make the call.

In conclusion, we must follow Cardinal Ratzinger's suggestions when it comes to voting for politican candidates. We will never find a "perfect" candidate. The policies, as best we known them, of Obama and Romney present Catholics with a moral dilemma. We can only pray for enlightenment, educate ourselves about each candidate, and choose the candidate that we believe will do a better job in solving our economic and fiscal problems, and creating opportunities for all, in particular the poor and the middle class. 

Correction. Let's "not" discount the grace and guidance of the Holy Spirit....








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