Editor’s note: As we approach the 2012 elections, we will be featuring articles to help promote reflection and conversation. Please keep commentary Christian and charitable in nature. LMH
I will never forget the day I had the realization that since the Catholic Church has been around for over 2000 years, unchanging in doctrine, she is probably a little smarter than I am. That day I found real peace in the understanding that I can trust the Church in helping me make every major (and minor) decision I would ever need to make. Why would I ask the Church’s teaching on matters that have nothing to do with religion, you might ask. Simply because we are created to know, love and serve God in this life and live with Him forever in Heaven in the next. That basically says every decision we make should show Him that we love Him and are willing to serve Him first. How do we know how to do that? We trust in the teaching of the establishment that Christ left us to show us how, the Catholic Church. I certainly don’t want to stand at the Pearly Gates some day and have to find a way to explain to God why in the election of 2012 my opinion was more important than His instruction through the Church, that the economy was more important than the commandments, that the government knew better on that election day than He does eternally about the rights that originally came from Him. Whew! That would be a scary day for me and a sad day for our loving Father, who wants our obedience in love so that He can care for us.
In a speech delivered in March 2006, Pope Benedict XVI gave us three non-negotiables when making our voting decisions. Why would he do that? Isn’t that mixing Church and state? Nope! The Pope, who is the shepherd of all our souls is most concerned with our souls! As Catholics, we are supposed to be Catholic 24/7, not just when it is comfortable or fits our opinion. The Holy Father wants to guide us toward Heaven and as the successor of Peter and the current leader of the Church that Christ left to guide us, he takes seriously the grave sins that are committed when we leave our Catholic card at home for the day. These three non-negotiables are even more prevalent today as we prepare to elect the president of the United States.
Pope Benedict stated, “As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principle focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are non-negotiable.” A year later the Pope repeated the need to recognize the non-negotiables in his Apostolic Exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis. Those who choose to call themselves Catholic should use these as a safety net for their souls when making their decisions in the voting booth. Pope Benedict set forth the principles as “respect for human life, its defense from conception to natural death, the family built upon marriage between a man and a woman, the freedom to educate one’s children.”
If we apply these non-negotiables to the platforms of each party, it becomes very obvious the direction the devout Catholic should cast their vote. Unfortunately, neither platform is perfectly in line with our Catholic teaching so we are, with well-formed consciences, to vote for the candidate most in line with those teachings. If we look at history and learn from its lessons we find no write-in candidate has ever won the presidential election in the United States. This said, we can deduce that the two candidates running as a Democrat and a Republican are the more likely candidates from which the president will be chosen. To cast a vote for a write-in candidate that has little likelihood of winning the election, actually takes a vote from the candidate most closely in line with Catholic teaching.
Look now at the Democratic and Republican platforms, regarding only the statements within each that relate to the non-negotiables, and begin to weigh your options. In doing this you will see that by following the Church’s teachings, it is quite simple to make such an important decision.
The first non-negotiable is the respect of life from conception to natural death. This is quite obviously regarding abortion and euthanasia at its basic level. The Democratic Platform states, “The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocably supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.” It goes on to say, “…President Obama and the Democrats will continue to stand up to Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood health centers.” (Life Issues Institute acknowledges with data that “Planned Parenthood is the largest provider and promoter of abortion in the US.”) The Republican Platform “…asserts the sanctity of human life and affirm[s]that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.” Regarding the funding of abortion providers, the platform states, “We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or fund organizations which perform or advocate it and will not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage.”
The second non-negotiable requires that the definition of marriage continue to be the natural structure of the union between a man and a woman. The Democratic Platform states, “We support marriage equality and support the movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples.” The Republican Platform addresses the issue with this statement, “…we believe that marriage, the union of one man and one woman must be upheld as the national standard, a goal to stand for, encourage, and promote through laws governing marriage.”
The final non-negotiable, the parent’s rights to educate their children in the method they choose, is also discussed in each platform. In the Democratic Platform we read, “We are committed to ensuring that every child in America has access to a world-class public education [emphasis mine]so we can out educate the world and make sure America has the world’s highest proportion of college graduates by 2020…We will continue to strengthen all our schools and work to expand public school options…” Parents are only included in this portion of the Platform in the following sentence. “We also recognize there is no substitute for a parent’s involvement in their child’s education.” This issue is also addressed in the Republican Platform stating, “Parents are responsible for the education of their children. We do not believe in a one size fits all approach to education and support providing broad education choices to parents and children at the State and local level.”
These are the non-negotiables given to us as Catholic citizens to guide us in our choices in the voting booth. The term “non-negotiable” is just that, not negotiable. It is not an opinion of someone but the spiritual guidance of the Holy Father. As Catholics we are called to obey in trust what our Holy Catholic faith teaches for our own good. As I said in the beginning, she’s been around for over 2000 years, she’s probably a little smarter than I am. If we want to call ourselves Catholic, we follow the teachings of the Catholic Church, even if we don’t agree. Otherwise, we’re just vegetarians eating bar-b-que at the Sunday picnic. So this November are you going to vote Democrat, Republican or Catholic? Remember the grand finale is Heaven. Which vote will get you closer? God is greater than the President and He will take better care of you than the government. My vote tells Him just how grateful I am for His blessings.