The Observer—Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Rockford
Publication date: September 3, 2004
By Patricia Pitkus Bainbridge
Director, Respect Life Office
On November 2nd, Americans will go to the polls to cast their votes for candidates who most closely represent their views on crucial issues. At least that is the way it is supposed to work. Unfortunately, many Catholics—relying on long-term political party affiliation—vote for candidates who hold positions that are in direct opposition to the moral teachings of the Church
Those who vote only for candidates who oppose abortion are disapprovingly referred to as “single issue voters.” One might ask, however if there are any political positions that should automatically eliminate a candidate from consideration? What if a candidate wanted to relax laws against child pornography? Are there any personal behaviors or affiliations that should automatically eliminate a candidate from consideration? What if a candidate were a member of the Ku Klux Klan? What if a candidate had a history of beating his wife or abusing his children? If a candidate could be associated with one or more of these issues would his position on the death penalty, healthcare, or immigration be sufficient for you to overlook his association with these issues?
A candidate who beats his wife or a candidate who would relax laws against child pornography is not fit for public office. This is true even if he were 100 percent “right” on every other issue. Simply put, some things are so egregious that they are disqualifiers, period. Surely a candidate who believes it is acceptable to kill a child, regardless of whether that child resides in or out of his mother’s womb at the time, is a disqualifier as well. Yet, many Catholics overlook the fact that a candidate supports the killing of unborn children and cast their votes based on other considerations. What they fail or refuse to acknowledge is that the right to life is the most fundamental issue of all, for without life there are no other issues.
A failure to recognize that abortion takes priority over other issues at this point in our history is to misunderstand the social justice teachings of the Church. As Father Frank Pavone writes, “Disputes among candidates about how to best secure rights that we agree people have (to food, clothing, shelter, education, protection from crime, etc.) are quite different from the fundamental dispute as to whether they have any rights in the first place or even belong to the human community (i.e., the status of the unborn before the law). No issue is more important to the political process than that of who belongs to the political community.”
In his October 20, 2000 column in The Observer, Bishop Doran writes: “It is said that we Catholics cannot be one-issue voters. But as Cardinal George has pointed out, not all issues can be given equal weight. The issue of life is different from all other issues of social import because all the others are incremental. One can be more or less poor, or have better or worse health care, or have a richer or poorer pension plan. But one cannot be more or less dead.”
All of us are called to speak out whenever and wherever the sanctity of human life is threatened. We must oppose everything that offends human dignity. In doing so, we must remember that the most urgent, the most egregious, and the most heinous crime against humanity is the deliberate killing of the most vulnerable among us—the unborn. Our selection of elected representatives should reflect this truth.
In those instances when neither candidate is totally opposed to abortion, but one favors some protective legislation, we ought to vote for the one who will at least limit the evil; lacking a truly pro-life candidate, only those who have demonstrated that they will do something to end the war against the most defenseless among us—those tiny human beings in their mothers’ wombs—are deserving of our vote.