Catholic voters

How to Vote Catholic-In Brief

By Deal W. Hudson

Political Participation

•Catholics are obliged to participate in politics by voting.

•Legislators are elected to serve and protect the common good, human dignity, and rights of human persons.

•Voters should have a clear understanding of the principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

•The life issues are dominant in the hierarchy of issues for the Catholic voter.

Prudential Judgment

•Prudential judgment is the application of principle to con­crete situations.

•Catholic principles apply to all political issues but in many cases do not lead prudentially to one acceptable Catholic position.

•The bishops’ teachings on faith and morals are binding; their prudential judgments on policy guide us but do not bind us.

Public Witness

•The Christian Faith cannot be restricted to oneself and one’s family, making it impossible to “love one’s neighbor.”

•The principle of subsidiarity teaches that Catholics should first address social problems at the local level before asking the government to intervene.

•Politics and government need the public witness of what faith teaches about the common good, human rights, and human dignity.

Abortion

•Abortion is the dominant political issue.

•Being pro-abortion disqualifies a candidate from a Catho­lic vote.

•Catholics can justly support politicians who advocate in­cremental means toward eliminating abortion.

Euthanasia

•The ban against euthanasia and assisted suicide admits of no exception.

•Removing extraordinary means of supporting life is allow­able as a prudential judgment.

•The growing acceptance of euthanasia and assisted sui­cide rests on the misguided assumption that pain detracts from the value of life.

Bioethics

•Since science serves human ends, not its own, scientific research must always respect the moral law.

•Science must respect the inherent dignity of the human person.
Unused and unwanted embryos must be treated with the respect afforded to other human beings.

•Ending human life cannot be justified in the name of thera­peutic (i.e., medical) benefits to other persons.

Population

•Population policy must not include abortion and steriliza­tion as methods of slowing population growth.

•The use of contraception in population policy undermines marriage and ignores the moral issues of promiscuity and disease.

•Catholic institutions should not be required to support contraception or abortion through mandated insurance coverage.

•The right to abortion should not be allowed to enter in­ternational law under the rubric of women’s “reproductive health” or fears of overpopulation.

The Death Penalty

•The Church teaches that the death penalty is acceptable in principle but should be avoided in practice.

•The responsibility of elected officials is to ensure that pe­nal systems and sentencing policies do in fact protect soci­ety from known aggressors.

•The practical elimination of the death penalty is based upon the strength of the penal system and the commensu­rateness of the sentencing procedures.

War

•States have the right to engage in war in self-defense but should first exhaust all peaceful solutions.

•Just war is waged within defined moral boundaries in re­gard to its targets, goals, and outcomes.

•Political leadership must have both the inclination toward peace and the capacity for decisive action if war is just and necessary.

Defense and Terrorism

•Nations have a duty to protect their citizens from legitimate threats.

•Nations should build their capacity for defense in light of just-war theory.

•Terrorism—the injury and murder of innocent civilians— is never justified.

•Defending a nation combines the military, international diplomacy, and a compassionate foreign policy.

Judicial Issues

•Judges should be evaluated according to their judicial re­cords and commitment to the limited judicial role, not at­tacked for their privately held religious views.

•Those who would nominate and confirm judicial activists disenfranchise the faithful Catholic voter.

•Catholic leaders have a duty to respect their constituents and their Church’s commitment to natural law tradition when considering judicial appointees.

Marriage and the Family

•Marriage was instituted prior to the state and should be recognized by the state as something inviolate and neces­sary to the common good.

•Prudential judgments about law and public policy should always seek to strengthen marriage and families.

•So-called same-sex marriages cannot be recognized by the Catholic Church, and civil unions are likely to undermine marriage and damage its foundational role in society.

Education

•Parents—not the state–have the right to educate their children.

•Catholic parents have the right to have their chil­dren educated in a curriculum consonant with Catho­lic values.

•Governments should provide financial support to families for the education they desire for their children.

Economic Issues

•Work is a matter of human dignity and is necessary to the common good.

•Government should create the conditions that support business and industry development.

•Corporate responsibility is critical in helping to maintain economic success.

Taxation

•Taxes should be fairly based upon one’s ability to pay.

•Tax policy should not penalize marriage or the raising of children.

•Corporate taxes should not threaten the capacity to create and sustain jobs.

Poverty

•The preferential option for the poor requires that authori­ties first provide assistance to the poor and oppressed.

•The poor must have access to the education and job train­ing necessary to compete in today’s job market.

•Strong families that remain intact keep their members from falling into poverty.

Health Care

•Health-care needs should be met by a combination of per­sonal and corporate insurance, philanthropy, and govern­ment programs.

•Catholic health-care organizations must be free to per­form their work with clear consciences.

•Abstinence and fidelity should be the foundation of sexu­ally transmitted disease—education and prevention.

Religious Liberty

•Religious expression is a human right that should be rec­ognized by the state.

•States that enforce secularism in social services and educa­tion are violating religious liberty.

•Political debate naturally involves religious concepts since law and public policy directly affect the common good.

Immigration

•A nation should seek to accommodate the immigrant who, for just reasons, seeks greater access to the basic goods of life.

•Political leaders and citizens should recognize the reality of human interdependence that crosses all borders and all national identities.

•The immigrant is a person who deserves the same protec­tion of law and social benefits afforded to citizens.

The Environment

•From creation, human beings are given special responsi­bility as stewards of the earth.

•As part of its duty to the common good, the government should prevent unnecessary harm to natural resources.

•Government should also use creative and technological skill, in concert with global cooperation, to reverse existing environmental damage.

Published in Crisis Magazine, November 1, 2006

Pro-Life Voters and the Culture

Deal W Hudson

“Social conservatism” has long been the Good Housekeeping brand in pro-life politics. Its usefulness, however, has come to an end, not because the moral commitments it signifies are any less important, but because politics is about attracting voters. A new language that in no way compromises the principles of life, marriage, and authentic freedom needs to be cultivated, one that encompasses more than a handful of issues, no matter how important, and one that connects to the larger culture.

“Cultural Conservatism” has been suggested, as I have discussed in previous columns, and I applaud the direction that would take those of us who want to unite the pro-life convictions with a concern for “social justice.” I understand the skepticism readers might feel at this suggestion, so I promise to sort through just what social justice really means in Catholic teaching in a future column. The point, however, is a simple one; social conservatism is not seen as generous, compassionate, or interested in the wide range of issues that impact our well-being, and that has become a political liability.

Some critics refer to social conservatives as “single issue” voters. It’s not a fair characterization but is a troublesome one. Those of us who believe that some issues are more important than others and should be given top priority in considering a candidate’s qualifications, should be viewed not as single issue voters but as “dominant issue” voters. These are voters who take into account the urgency of addressing issues of social injustice in the culture but see those issues arranged vertically not horizontally.

The life issues—including abortion, euthanasia, fetal stem-cell research, and cloning—are at the top of that hierarchy. These issues should be considered dominant in determining how to vote for two simple reasons: First, the protection of life—the right to life—is a moral principle that sits at the foundation of morality itself. And it’s one of the three foundational rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence. There could be no right to liberty or happiness unless there were a living person in the first place.

Second, the injunction of natural law and the Church to oppose abortion is unqualified: Individuals are not required, or allowed, to make prudential judgments of the principle to a specific case. Appeals to private “conscience” cannot override this infallible teaching. In his 2002 Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Public Life, the then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger wrote:
“In this context, it must be noted also that a well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals. The Christian faith is an integral unity, and thus it is incoherent to isolate some particular element to the detriment of the whole of Catholic doctrine. A political commitment to a single isolated aspect of the Church’s social doctrine does not exhaust one’s responsibility towards the common good.”

Opposition to abortion, therefore, admits of no exceptions. There is no question, then, that as the dominant issue, a politician’s position on abortion qualifies him or her for the Catholic vote. From the perspective of the Church, not all the policy positions taken by candidates are of equal importance. Catholic voters, by understanding themselves as dominant-issue voters, can preserve the hierarchy of values at the core of Church teaching while not ignoring the legitimate spectrum of issues important to political consideration.

Furthermore, by understanding the dominance of life issues, Catholic voters will overcome their confusion about the difference between moral principle and prudential judgment. Unlike the admonition against abortion, most of the general principles proposed in Church teaching can be implemented in a variety of ways; it’s simply a mistake to assume—as the Left often does—that one kind of implementation is more “Catholic” than another.

As has been noted many times, the USCCB’s habit of issuing dozens of policy recommendations during every congressional session, on issues ranging from broadband legislation and immigration to minimum wage and partial-birth abortion, results in confusion at the grassroots. Unfortunately, the average Catholic doesn’t discriminate between simple policy recommendations made by the Conference and doctrinal statements, and often wrongly assumes that they have equal authority.

Using dominant-issue language can help to close the unnecessary divide between pro-life and social justice Catholics. There’s a clear continuity between providing someone with food and shelter and the willingness to defend his life when it’s threatened. The Church often employs the phrase “social justice” when addressing “the conditions that allow associations or individuals to obtain what is their due, according to their nature and their vocation. Social justice is linked to the common good and the exercise of “authority” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1928). A cultural conservatism, if it is to emerge, must reconnect what never should have been disconnected — because to care about life is to care about everything.

The demands of social justice, then, begin with the right to life and end with the right to be protected from euthanasia or the temptation of assisted suicide. It’s a mistake to detach the idea of social justice from the protection of vulnerable life: The source of moral obligation to protect the unborn and to feed the hungry is one and the same—the inherent dignity of the human person.

How to Vote Catholic: A Brief Guide

Deal W. Hudson

Voting
• Catholics are obliged to participate in politics by voting.
• Legislators are elected to serve and protect the common good, human dignity, and rights of human persons.
• Voters should have a clear understanding of the principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.
• The life issues are dominant in the hierarchy of issues for the Catholic voter.

Prudential Judgment
• Prudential judgment is the application of principle to concrete situations.
• Catholic principles apply to all political issues but in many cases do not lead prudentially to one acceptable Catholic position.
• The bishops’ teachings on faith and morals are binding; their prudential judgments on policy guide us but do not bind us.
Public Witness
• The Christian Faith cannot be restricted to oneself and one’s family, making it impossible to “love one’s neighbor.”
• The principle of subsidiarity teaches that Catholics should first address social problems at the local level before asking the government to intervene.
• Politics and government need the public witness of what faith teaches about the common good, human rights, and human dignity.

Abortion
• Abortion is the dominant political issue.
• Being pro-abortion disqualifies a candidate from a Catholic vote.
• Catholics can justly support politicians who advocate incremental means toward eliminating abortion.
Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide
• The ban against euthanasia and assisted suicide admits of no exception.
• Removing extraordinary means of supporting life is allowable as a prudential judgment.
• The growing acceptance of euthanasia and assisted suicide rests on the misguided assumption that pain detracts from the value of life.

Bioethics
• Since science serves human ends, not its own, scientific research must always respect the moral law.
• Science must respect the inherent dignity of the human person.
• Unused and unwanted embryos must be treated with the respect afforded to other human beings.
• Ending human life cannot be justified in the name of therapeutic (i.e., medical) benefits to other persons.

Population
• Population policy must not include abortion and sterilization as methods of slowing population growth.
• The use of contraception in population policy undermines marriage and ignores the moral issues of promiscuity and disease.
• Catholic institutions should not be required to support contraception or abortion through mandated insurance coverage.
• The right to abortion should not be allowed to enter international law under the rubric of women’s “reproductive health” or fears of overpopulation.

The Death Penalty
• The Church teaches that the death penalty is acceptable in principle but should be avoided in practice.
• The responsibility of elected officials is to ensure that penal systems and sentencing policies do in fact protect society from known aggressors.
• The practical elimination of the death penalty is based upon the strength of the penal system and the commensurateness of the sentencing procedures.

War
• States have the right to engage in war in self-defense but should first exhaust all peaceful solutions.
• Just war is waged within defined moral boundaries in regard to its targets, goals, and outcomes.
• Political leadership must have both the inclination toward peace and the capacity for decisive action if war is just and necessary.

Defense and Terrorism
• Nations have a duty to protect their citizens from legitimate threats.
• Nations should build their capacity for defense in light of just-war theory.
• Terrorism—the injury and murder of innocent civilians—is never justified.
• Defending a nation combines the military, international diplomacy, and a compassionate foreign policy.

Judicial Issues
• Judges should be evaluated according to their judicial records and commitment to the limited judicial role, not attacked for their privately held religious views.
• Those who would nominate and confirm judicial activists disenfranchise the faithful Catholic voter.
• Catholic leaders have a duty to respect their constituents and their Church’s commitment to natural law tradition when considering judicial appointees.

Marriage and the Family
• Marriage was instituted prior to the state and should be recognized by the state as something inviolate and necessary to the common good.
• Prudential judgments about law and public policy should always seek to strengthen marriage and families.
• So-called same-sex marriages cannot be recognized by the Catholic Church, and civil unions are likely to undermine marriage and damage its foundational role in society.

Education
• Parents—not the state—have the right to educate their children.
• Catholic parents have the right to have their children educated in a curriculum consonant with Catholic values.
• Governments should provide financial support to families for the education they desire for their children.

Economic Issues
• Work is a matter of human dignity and is necessary to the common good.
• Government should create the conditions that support business and industry development.
• Corporate responsibility is critical in helping to maintain economic success.

Taxation
• Taxes should be fairly based upon one’s ability to pay.
• Tax policy should not penalize marriage or the raising of children.
• Corporate taxes should not threaten the capacity to create and sustain jobs.

Poverty
• The preferential option for the poor requires that authorities first provide assistance to the poor and oppressed.
• The poor must have access to the education and job training necessary to compete in today’s job market.
• Strong families that remain intact keep their members from falling into poverty.

Health Care
• Health-care needs should be met by a combination of personal and corporate insurance, philanthropy, and government programs.
• Catholic health-care organizations must be free to perform their work with clear consciences.
• Abstinence and fidelity should be the foundation of sexually transmitted disease—education and prevention.

Religious Liberty
• Religious expression is a human right that should be recognized by the state.
• States that enforce secularism in social services and education are violating religious liberty.
• Political debate naturally involves religious concepts since law and public policy directly affect the common good.

Immigration
• A nation should seek to accommodate the immigrant who, for just reasons, seeks greater access to the basic goods of life.
• Political leaders and citizens should recognize the reality of human interdependence that crosses all borders and all national identities.
• The immigrant is a person who deserves the same protection of law and social benefits afforded to citizens.

Environment
• From creation, human beings are given special responsibility as stewards of the earth.
• As part of its duty to the common good, the government should prevent unnecessary harm to natural resources.
• Government should also use creative and technological skill, in concert with global cooperation, to reverse existing environmental damage.

©Deal W. Hudson

How to Vote Catholic

Deal W. Hudson

Introduction

Catholics make up about 30 percent of those who vote in national elections. These 30 million Catholics have the power to make our country a better nation—more welcoming to life, more supportive of families, and more effective in its programs to help the poor and marginalized.

Furthermore, Catholics who attend Mass regularly vote more often and express heightened concern for issues at the core of the Church’s social teaching. Once politicians notice that Catholics vote their values, the faithful will have an opportunity to influence their leaders.

But there are a few important things to remember.

First, Catholics who vote should not worry about “imposing” their values on others. The U.S. Supreme Court decision recognizing the legality of slavery would never have been overturned if men and women of faith had chosen to keep their religious convictions private. The voters who supported Lincoln didn’t worry about “imposing” their faith in ending the scourge of slavery.

Catholics do not seek laws requiring citizens to attend church or observe Lenten fasts. On the contrary, Catholics advocate the protection of basic human rights through legislation and policy, such as the right to life and the right to educational freedom. Laws and policies embody the values we as a nation agree to live by.

Second, Catholics know that the protection of the unborn is the “dominant issue” among all political issues. Though some have criticized Catholics as being “single-issue” voters, the principle underlying the rejection of abortion extends to other issues, such as bioethics, population, euthanasia, and defense. The mandate to protect life in politics is unconditional and should be our foremost consideration.

Third, not all the policy positions taken by candidates are of equal importance to Catholics. As dominant-issue voters, Catholics should learn to give various issues their proper priority, thus preserving the hierarchy of values at the core of Church teaching.

There is no need for any Catholic who enters the voting booth to leave any part of the Faith outside. The tradition of Catholic moral and social teaching is a practical voting guide second to none.

Applying the Principles

Political judgments are rarely black-and-white—most require prudence (the application of a general principle to a concrete situation).

All Catholics bear the responsibility of making prudential judgments, but these judgments rely on information that is often not easily available. We need guidance, and the bishops offer it through the publications of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

The USCCB represents a merging in 2001 of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) and the United States Catholic Conference (USCC), which were created in 1966. Since then, the bishops have released more than 100 pastoral letters and statements that take positions on dozens of public policy matters, ranging from handguns, racial prejudice, and U.S. relations with Panama to treatment of the aging, farm laborers, and war in the Middle East .

These statements are intended to educate Catholics on pressing issues of law and policy. Some confusion has also been created unintentionally by this official commentary on such a wide range of issues: Few Catholics make the distinction between binding statements of principle and the non-binding prudential judgments on policy issues.

The bishops themselves recognize the potential for confusion and have addressed it directly, for example, in their pastoral Economic Justice for All: “We do not claim to make these prudential judgments with the same kind of authority that marks our declarations of principle.” Instead, the letters are attempts at applying Catholic principles to concrete situations. But the authority of bishops in matters of faith and morals does not extend to their prudential judgments in other matters.

Don’t misunderstand me: Catholics need the education in social teaching offered by the bishops. We can learn from the bishops’ examples of how to think prudentially and how to gather the expertise and data necessary to put principle into practice. But the habit of prudence belongs to individuals, not to a group. Prudence is not prudence when it is handed down like a rule to be followed. Individual prudential judgment follows from principles and cannot be commanded or dictated.

The U.S. bishops have clearly stated, “Decisions about candidates and choices about public policies require clear commitment to moral principles, careful discernment and prudential judgments based on the values of our faith” (Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility).

What’s important to recognize, first of all, is the commitment to principle at the core of policy recommendation. What must be considered is how effective a policy will be in implementing the principle that underlies it.

Public Witness

Should a political candidate talk publicly about his faith? Should an elected official allow his or her faith to inform political decisions? These are questions that have been discussed for decades, but the debate has grown more heated in recent years.

The Church’s position is clear: “A well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals” (Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life, 4).

The Church teaches very clearly that the political order is not separate from the divine order revealed by faith (Gaudium et Spes, 74). Yet some well-known Catholic politicians over the past decades have argued that Catholic values should remain personal, not political. These same politicians, however, claim a Catholic basis for policies addressing, for example, a preferential option for the poor, yet wholeheartedly reject Catholic teachings on the protection of life.

This insistence on compartmentalizing faith restricts our compassion and concern to our immediate family. A religion with “love thy neighbor” as its central tenet cannot remain restricted to one’s family.

Abortion

“Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or means, is gravely contrary to the moral law” (CCC 2271).

Those who treat abortion as just one of many issues are misleading Catholic voters. Abortion is unique among policy issues because it is not a matter of prudential judgment. From a Catholic perspective, politicians are not making an application of a principle to a specific situation: All instances of abortion are morally wrong.

Those politicians who are pro-abortion but want to be known as Catholic will try to minimize the importance of the issue by citing a long list of issues, with abortion being only one among them. Their method of convincing voters of their Catholic credentials is to trade disagreement on this issue with agreement on several others. But as the bishops point out in Living the Gospel of Life (1998), this would be like saying that you can build a house without a foundation, simply because all the other parts of the house are strong.

When we look at persons who are in need of food and shelter we immediately feel it our duty to help them. Why? We naturally sense the moral obligation to help persons protect and recover their dignity. This fact of human solidarity in Church teaching—the necessity of community in seeking the common good—never changes.

The natural law at the basis of our moral judgment inclines us to respond to human need; the same inclination is at the basis of our desire to protect life before it is born. Commitment to social justice arises from the same moral vision as the defense of innocent life.

In short, there’s continuity between providing someone with food and shelter and the willingness to defend his or her life when it is threatened. The Church often employs the phrase “social justice” when addressing “the conditions that allow associations or individuals to obtain what is their due, according to their nature and their vocation. Social justice is linked to the common good and the exercise of authority” (CCC 1928).

The demands of social justice begin with the right to life and end with the right to be protected from euthanasia or the temptation of assisted suicide. It’s a mistake to detach the idea of social justice from the protection of vulnerable life: The moral obligation to protect the unborn and to feed the hungry springs from the same source—the inherent dignity of the human person (CCC 1929).

The Church’s pronouncements on abortion as an evil are spoken with the highest level of authority—there is not the least hint that either a Catholic voter or a Catholic candidate can ignore them. The reason that abortion is the dominant issue in determining how to vote is twofold:

First, the protection of life—the right to life—is a moral principle that sits at the foundation of morality itself. This right is “inalienable,” meaning that it cannot be removed, even by the choice of the mother or father.

Second, the Catholic injunction to oppose abortion is unqualified: Individuals are not required, or allowed, to make prudential judgments of the principle to a specific case. Appeals to private “conscience” cannot override this infallible teaching.

The president and Congress must take whatever action they can to reduce the number of abortions and, in the future, put an end to abortion for good. For the moment, no step is too small.

The Church allows support for politicians “whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known” and who take an “incremental” approach to restoring the culture of life (Evangelium Vitae, 73).

In other words, it’s permissible for a Catholic voter to vote for a politician who attempts to pass, for example, the ban on partial-birth abortion. The support for such a ban is not to be construed as political indifference to the millions of other abortions.

Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide

“Intentional euthanasia, whatever its forms or motives, is murder. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator” (CCC 2324).

The Church views euthanasia and assisted suicide as the direct killing of a human being and, therefore, an immoral act. Support for euthanasia and assisted suicide is not a matter of prudential judgment—there are never any reasons that justify such killing: “Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable” (CCC 2277).

A Catholic politician’s support of these practices is promoting the culture of death and is not acceptable in the view of the Church.

Scrutinizing the position of Catholic politicians on this issue is very important. What was once unthinkable—the state endorsement of euthanasia—became a reality when the state of Oregon enacted a law legalizing physician-assisted suicide in 1997. Since then, similar legislation has been introduced in other states. This is an initiative that every Catholic citizen and politician must oppose.

Those who have watched the spread of the culture of death since the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 were not surprised that the same attitude that led to the legalization of abortion has opened the door to arguments in support of euthanasia.

The intrinsic dignity and sacredness of human life—the inalienable right to life—have been replaced by the primacy of personal preference and the protection of pleasure. In Evangelium Vitae (1995), John Paul II spoke directly to that issue: “When the prevailing tendency is to value life only to the extent that it brings pleasure and well-being, suffering seems like an unbearable setback, something from which one must be freed at all costs.”

Rather than subjectively ending the lives of those who suffer, John Paul II has said that true compassion calls us to share in their suffering. In so doing, we may use appropriate levels of palliative care—pain relief—as long as we do not remove their personal experiences of life and death.

The ban against euthanasia does not mean that care-givers and families cannot stop extraordinary medical procedures used to keep their loved ones alive. To reject such treatment is not euthanasia, “it is the refusal of ‘over-zealous’ treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted” (CCC 2278).

Choosing to stop such treatment is a prudential judgment belonging to the patient’s family and the assisting physician. The need to make such judgments demonstrates how laws allowing euthanasia harm the relationship between doctors and patients. The Hippocratic Oath, taken by physicians since before the time of Christ, specifies that the physician “do no harm.”

The euthanasia option fundamentally changes the relationship between doctor and patient: Patients can no longer trust their doctors to absolutely seek life over death.

But what if a patient seeks help in hastening his or her death? Some argue that this consent justifies what is known as assisted suicide. Yet Church teaching is clear in its rejection of suicide ever being morally permissible, even under conditions of extreme suffering. “Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life . . . [and] is contrary to love for the living God” (CCC 2281).

Just as a person should not “put someone out of his misery” by means of euthanasia, he should not assist someone in committing suicide.

Euthanasia and assisted suicide belong to those sets of moral obligations that allow no exception to Catholic teaching. They are among those acts that “are a supreme dishonor to the Creator” (Gaudium et Spes, 27).

Thus, along with abortion, a politician’s support for euthanasia disqualifies him or her from the Catholic vote.

Bioethics

“Methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God” (CCC 159).

Bioethics is taking center stage in the arena of public policy and morality. The past few years have witnessed highly visible debates on human embryonic stem cell research and cloning. Since the future of such research has a direct impact on the life and death of human persons, it’s a life issue for all Catholics.

In recent years, the Church has been highly supportive of technological advances in medicine, pursued in conformity with basic moral principles and respectful of the inherent dignity of life: “Science and technology by their very nature require unconditional respect for fundamental moral criteria. They must be at the service of the human person, of his inalienable rights, of his true and integral good, in conformity with the plan and the will of God” (CCC 2294).

Catholics take seriously what science reveals about human embryogenesis and intrauterine human development. Human life begins at conception, and the gift of a child is linked with the conjugal act. Therefore, the Church opposes abortion and embryo-destructive research and rejects reproductive procedures that attempt to substitute for the marital act, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) and artificial insemination. In this way, the Church upholds the sanctity of human life and the dignity of the marriage union.

With the use of so-called assisted reproduction, we can see a link between these ideals and the practices that threaten to undermine them. The most disturbing is the use of cryopreservation (i.e., freezing) to store “spare” embryos. This practice, in effect, sentences an embryonic human being to a state of permanent suspension—literally frozen in time. For many, these embryos represent biological material for scientific experimentation, such as stem cell research.

The Church’s message is one of enthusiastic support for biomedical science, yet firm opposition to killing in the name of research. To experiment on unused, unimplanted, or frozen embryos violates Church teaching and “reduces human life to the level of simple ‘biological material'” (Evangelium Vitae, 14). The fact that surplus embryos have been effectively orphaned does not reduce them to the status of expendable research material, nor does it remove their right to be protected by law.

U.S. government policy limits federal funding for research to stem cell lines that were created prior to August 9, 2001. The Bush administration successfully prohibited federal funding for research involving embryo destruction after that date. However, federal law does not restrict privately funded embryo-destructive research, although there are prohibitions on such research in some states.

What makes the practice of using embryonic cells especially abhorrent is the fact that scientists have made significant progress on adult stem cells to the point that they now offer a promising alternative. Many people are alive today as a result of therapies using adult stem cells, while no one has ever been cured of any disease by embryonic stem cell therapies.

Some researchers seek to “harvest” tissues and organs by creating life through a cloning process known as somatic cell nuclear transfer. The Church teaches that cloning is morally wrong: “These techniques, insofar as they involve the manipulation and destruction of human embryos, are not morally acceptable, even when their proposed goal is good in itself” (Pope John Paul II, Address to International Congress on Transplants).

Members of the U.S. Congress are now facing the issue of whether human clones, once they are created, can be killed for the sake of medical research or benefit. Immediate attention to this matter is critical.

No Catholic can justify such a policy.

Population

“Thus the Church condemns as a grave offense against human dignity and justice all those activities of governments or other public authorities which attempt to limit in any way the freedom of couples in deciding about children” (Familiaris Consortio, 30).

In recent decades the issue of overpopulation has led the United States to spend millions of dollars on population control efforts. Much of this money is given to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that work in developing nations to address what they see as problems of over-population. Abortion, sterilization, and contraception have become part of U.S. foreign policy.

The so-called Mexico City policy, implemented in 1984 by President Reagan and reinstated in 2001 by President George W. Bush, restricts federal money earmarked for family planning from being spent on abortion overseas or on military bases. It specifically prohibits funding for programs that force, promote, or advocate changes in laws to legalize abortion. As a result, many NGOs are now barred from receiving federal family planning money from USAID and similar organizations.

As with voluntary sterilization, unnatural contraceptive techniques remain entrenched in government-funded family planning programs. In fact, the United States annually spends $425 million on contraception around the world. Yet the Church teaches that contraception is immoral.

The many Church documents that address the problem of contraception stress the self-giving that stands at the heart of the relationship between a husband and wife. Contraception is a deliberate refusal of this gift. “This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love” (Familiaris Consortio, 32).

Artificial family planning techniques do not work and they do nothing to benefit a person’s character. The best way to deal with destructive behavior is to change the behavior, not to render the behavior seemingly innocuous. In fact, recent statistics highlight the fact that increased contraceptive use does not result in decreased recourse to abortion, and condom use alone has not been successful in curbing the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Abstinence programs, which the Church does applaud, have recently been successfully employed to fight the plague of AIDS, most notably in Africa . Despite this success, natural family planning (NFP) has never been employed by any of the federally funded NGOs around the world, even though the Foreign Assistance Act was amended in 1981 to ensure that NFP methods were included in the global family planning discussion.

Controversies over population policy became quite visible during the pontificate of John Paul II when the Holy See participated in a succession of world conferences on population: Cairo (1994), Beijing (1995), New York (1999), and Beijing (2000). During these conferences the Holy See delegation united with key allies, including most Muslim countries, to keep the documents from enshrining such things as a “universal women’s right to abortion” and an unfettered right of adolescents to “reproductive health services.”

Despite their efforts, each conference incrementally added more “reproductive rights” until, in arguably the worst event, the UN called for the training of health-care workers to perform abortions and make them available. To make matters worse, the Vatican ‘s repeated calls to include conscientious objection protection for pro-life healthcare workers were totally ignored.

Population policy also has a domestic side. At least 23 states have mandated that employee insurance policies cover contraceptives, including the abortifacient “morning-after pill.”

For a Catholic institution, such as a hospital or university, such a mandate is a clear violation of conscience. While some states have included a “conscience clause” that allows a business to opt out on religious grounds, some do not, and some are so poorly written that the Catholic Church does not qualify. The threat is real since a federal mandate would override all the conscience clauses of the states and require all religious employers to provide contraception, including the USCCB.

The Death Penalty

“Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor” (CCC 2267).

Capital punishment is probably the most misunderstood moral issue in the Catholic Church. This confusion stems from the change made in the Catechism in 1997 to bring the teaching into conformity with the encyclical Evangelium Vitae.

The change was widely reported in the media and by some Catholic commentators as the Church declaring total opposition to the use of the death penalty. This view is incorrect and is not supported by the words of the revised Catechism or Evangelium Vitae itself.

The Church’s position can be summarized in this way: The Church acknowledges that criminals must be punished and leaves open the possibility that alternatives to the death penalty may not be sufficient to protect the common good. However, thanks to advances in the judicial and penal systems, it is becoming more possible for the state to fulfill its obligation to protect the common good by “bloodless means.” Modern penology has made the necessity of capital punishment “very rare, if not practically non-existent” (Evangelium Vitae, 56).

However, what is true in the United States and other developed countries may not be true in less developed parts of the world where prisons provide security for neither those on the inside nor the outside. Prudential judgment is required to apply this teaching to circumstances.

Political candidates best represent Church teaching when they recognize the necessity of protecting the common good from aggression and providing the necessary resources for the improvement of prison care, while still upholding the inherent dignity of individuals.

Elected representatives have a threefold responsibility: first, to recognize the preference of bloodless means in treating the worst criminals; second, to ensure judicial sentences are commensurate with the crimes and the threat to the common good; and third, to provide the resources needed to keep prisons secure for inmates, staff, and the public.

We have nothing to lose by ending the practice of capital punishment.

Yet, if we are to rely on life-imprisonment, the underlying sentencing policies must prevent dangerous criminals from returning to general society until the threat they pose is removed. The only way to completely eliminate the death penalty is to ensure that the penal system truly protects society from the most dangerous of its inmates.

The primary purpose of punishment is to prevent further harm, but the Church also holds forth the hope that those being punished will experience moral renewal in the acceptance of a just punishment: “Punishment then, in addition to defending public order and protecting people’s safety, has a medicinal purpose: as far as possible, it must contribute to the correction of the guilty party” (CCC 2266).

The Holy Father and the bishops hope that this view of punishment will itself be a witness to the culture of life. Rather than seeing justice in reflexive eye-for-an-eye terms, they urge Catholics to understand the cost of violence, even when violence is sanctioned by the state in the name of protecting the common good.

The Church urges us to go beyond the action that is justified to the action that is a better witness to the moral order.

War

“All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war. However, as long as the danger of war persists and there is no international authority with the necessary competence and power, governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed” (CCC 2308).

The Church has never taught pacifism as an option for those in charge of the common good, only for individuals in certain circumstances. Military servicemen, for example, serve with honor and “contribute to the common good of the nation” (CCC 2310). Just as a person is entitled to self-defense, so too is a government responsible for protecting its people. The most powerful of all protective methods is to wage war against those who pose legitimate and significant threats. In certain cases, war can be a moral duty.

When war threatens, Catholics are obliged to apply these criteria in shaping their opinions on whether conflict is justified. It’s entirely appropriate for Catholics, lay and religious alike, to voice their opinions on the justness of a potential or actual conflict. Yet these opinions are prudential in nature.

Not all wars are just, according to Church teaching. Therefore, all Catholics and political leaders must consider carefully their reasons for going to war, the process by which they arrived at their decisions, and all probable outcomes. As a guide, the Church has delineated specific criteria for a just war

According to the Catechism, the four conditions for a just war are 1) “the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain”; 2) “all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective”; 3) “there must be serious prospects of success”; and 4) “the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated” (CCC 2309).

Note that these considerations apply to more than the reasons for war but also to the way a war is fought and its outcome. With the development of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, the human cost of war has multiplied many times over. The potential for vast destruction of innocent life is ominous, thus a nation’s response to an aggressor must be proportionate and limited.

Those who offer their opinions on war do not always have the data needed to fully inform their prudential judgments. While the published opinions of bishops or priests inform the decisions of political leaders and Catholic citizens, their opinions are not binding, except in certain circumstances such as that of Nazi Germany where the regime itself was morally indefensible. Ultimately, the authorities responsible for the common good of U.S. citizens are the president and Congress, who must use the vast resources at their disposal to make wise and honest choices. The Catechism recognizes it is their collective, prudential judgment upon which the decision to wage war is based.

If we want to ensure that the United States goes to war rarely and in a just manner, all Catholics should consider their elected officials in light of the principles listed in the Catechism. Political candidates should be willing to defend the country against aggression, but they should demonstrate an even greater inclination toward peace. Candidates should also be prepared to take decisive and proportionate actions in the face of credible and imminent threats.

The Church alludes to the option of “international authority” in avoiding the decision to go to war. The only such authority at the present time is the United Nations, a deliberative body whose various actions are empowered by the agreement of its member nations. Despite this influence, the UN has only authorized two of the many wars since its founding: the Korean conflict and the first Persian Gulf War. Nonetheless, it is an important player in the deliberative process, since it represents the only stage upon which all nations participate diplomatically in avoiding war through non-violent means.

Defense and Terrorism

“Finally, the common good requires peace, that is, the stability and security of a just order. It presupposes that authority should ensure by morally acceptable means the security of society and its members. It is the basis of the right to legitimate personal and collective defense” (CCC 1909).

A nation has a duty to defend itself and the lives of its citizens as part of serving the common good. To achieve this goal, the military capacity of a nation should be at least equal to that of its enemy. The Catechism allows for this: “Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense” (CCC 2266). The alternative renders the government powerless to fulfill its primary obligation. For if a nation’s military is unprepared or its capacity to respond is poor, the aggressors will most likely prevail.

This does not mean that governments have complete latitude in planning their defenses. Those entrusted with the defense of the common good are expected to act within a moral framework when waging war. For example, the Catechism allows for the use of arms when the common good is threatened (CCC 2265), but these weapons should not have the potential to become an even greater threat than the original source of danger (CCC 2309).

In the past, nuclear weapons were considered a viable deterrent to a more traditional type of war. The enemies were easily identified and clearly defined. Yet, in this new age of terrorism, how do nations defend themselves against isolated attacks and hidden aggressors? As terrorism becomes an almost daily occurrence in places like Iraq, Israel, and Pakistan, the social teaching of the Church, like every other body of thought on national defense, is in a development stage. What is “morally acceptable” when it comes to terrorist groups who are willing to take innocent life in order to intimidate nations, influence policy, and affect the outcome of elections?

The present debate over preemptive attacks is an example of this internal discussion within the Church. Some bishops, especially those in the United States, have questioned the legitimacy of using preemptive attacks to remove the threat from states supporting or shielding terrorist organizations.

But the Church has long taught that terrorism is never a just form of war: “The purposeful taking of human life is an unjustifiable assault on human life. For the same reasons, the intentional targeting of civilians in war or terrorist attacks is always wrong” (USCCB, Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility). While recognizing the legitimacy of one soldier taking the life of another soldier under the condition of war, the Church does not recognize the legitimacy of terrorist attacks under any circumstances.

In response to the attacks of September 11, the bishops reminded political leaders to look beyond military solutions: “Without in any way excusing indefensible terrorist acts, we still need to address those conditions of poverty and injustice which are exploited by terrorists” (USCCB, Living with Faith and Hope After September 11).

The bishops recognize that poverty and inequality are not the sole, or even the chief, causes of terrorism, especially in the case of Muslim extremists. Nevertheless, these are conditions that are “exploited” by terrorists looking to clothe themselves in political legitimacy. Without a strategy that includes diplomatic and intelligence cooperation among the nations of the world, terrorist organizations and cells will always find “rogue” states to train and house their agents.

Peace is not merely the absence of war; it’s not only achieved through defense, but through communication, respect, and solidarity.

In short, the best defense against aggression combines three elements: first, a military prepared to implement a proportionate and effective response; second, international diplomacy that identifies and resolves the causes of conflict before military action becomes necessary; and third, a foreign policy that seeks to correct social conditions that foster aggression and terrorism, through international cooperation.

Judicial Issues

“Some there must be who devote themselves to the work of the commonwealth, who make the laws or administer justice, or whose advice and authority govern the nation in times of peace, and defend it in war. Such men clearly occupy the foremost place in the State, and should be held in highest estimation, for their work concerns most nearly and effectively the general interests of the community” (Rerum Novarum, 34).

Judges are either elected directly by the people or nominated and approved by our elected leaders (i.e., the president and the U.S. Senate). In recent years, prolonged political battles have been waged over presidential nominations to federal courts of appeals. Future U.S. Supreme Court nominees will likely face fierce scrutiny and political battering, even to a greater extent than the tumultuous nominees of the past.

The issue that often has driven the debate is abortion, now followed closely by homosexual marriage. Since these are the current flash points in the battle over judicial nominations, it’s not surprising that the religious commitments of court nominees have been so closely scrutinized. Given that evangelicals and faithful Catholics are united in defending unborn life and marriage between a man and woman, the judges from those faith traditions have been attacked.

The role of a judge is to interpret law, not create it. The separation of powers in the Constitution gives Congress the power to make laws, giving courts only the limited power to interpret them. Judges are expected to overlook their personal beliefs and base their decisions on the law alone.

It’s especially unfortunate when Catholic politicians lead the fight against those justices who have demonstrated strong commitments to Catholic teaching. Public officials who treat a judicial nominee’s Catholic faith as an obstacle to serving as a judge not only demonstrate a bias against religious beliefs but also reveal a misunderstanding about Catholic teaching on judicial responsibility itself.

In fact, faithful Catholics, who are grounded in the concepts of following rules and exhibiting humility, should be especially well-suited for judicial service because they would naturally eschew the qualities that lead a judge to being an activist.

The most serious problem in the judiciary is the presence of activist judges who use every opportunity to misconstrue, contort, and stretch the law to create the maximum amount of legal justification for abortion, euthanasia, and homosexual marriage. Those who nominate and confirm judicial activists try to shape the courts because they cannot get what they want in the political process. Activist judges disenfranchise voters of faith.

Catholics both within government and without must be on guard against an attitude that holds law to be whatever the legislator says it is. This reduction of law can endanger democracy and morality by removing the objective foundation of morals and law as given by nature and recognized by reason.

Eternal laws are the government of all things by God and form the basis of the social moral order. Their assimilation to human society through reason gives the immediate basis of political morality; natural law is the foundation of a sound political vision. Human laws that contradict the natural law—for example, American laws legalizing abortion—have no authority for Catholics. Martin Luther King Jr. quoted St. Thomas Aquinas on this point in his influential “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

What does this mean in our system of democratic government? First, our elected officials must make laws that respect natural law. Second, individuals who use the judiciary to create rights or obligations that have no basis in our Constitution are acting improperly.

Marriage and Family

“A man and a woman united in marriage, together with their children, form a family. This institution is prior to any recognition by public authority, which has an obligation to recognize it. It should be considered the normal reference point by which the different forms of family relationship are to be evaluated” (CCC 2202).

The Catholic Church teaches that the institution of marriage comes prior to the state and therefore must be accepted as normative. Indeed, all the nations in the world over the past 20 centuries have never questioned this standard, until recently.

On February 3, 2004, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that the state laws restricting marriage to the union of one man and one woman were based upon a religious prejudice. This decision unleashed a national debate on the meaning of marriage and spurred many to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution specifying the legal meaning of marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman.

The pope and bishops around the world have directly rejected the idea of “same-sex marriage”: “It is not based on the natural complementarity of male and female; it cannot cooperate with God to create new life; and the natural purpose of sexual union cannot be achieved by a same-sex union” (USCCB, Between Man and Woman: Questions and Answers About Marriage and Same-Sex Unions).

The Church must defend traditional marriage not only because it was instituted by God, but also because the family is the foundation of all society: “The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God, and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society” (CCC 2207).

The Catholic view of marriage should inform public policy in several ways. As the U.S. bishops have said, “Policies related to the definition of marriage, taxes, the workplace, divorce, and welfare must be designed to help families stay together and to reward responsibility and sacrifice for children” (USCCB, Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility).

The specific policies are a matter of prudential judgment, but what is behind them—the firm belief that marriage between a man and a woman should be protected by the state—is a non-negotiable principle of Catholic teaching.

The USCCB is strongly supportive of the constitutional amendment to defend marriage recently introduced in the Congress. A majority of Catholic senators, unfortunately, voted against it, in spite of the bishops’ lobbying effort.

Politicians will disagree prudentially on how best to protect marriage through law and public policy. The option being considered by some states, that of recognizing “civil unions” between homosexuals and affording to them some or all of the benefits of married persons, should be judged by its impact on the common good and especially on marriage and children.

The Pontifical Council for the Family has criticized the prospect of civil unions: “This would be an arbitrary use of power which does not contribute to the common good because the original nature of marriage and the family proceeds and exceeds, in an absolute and radical way, the sovereign power of the State” (Family, Marriage and “De Facto” Unions, 9).

Education

“The right and the duty of parents to educate their children are primordial and inalienable” (CCC 2221).

Parents should know that it’s their job to oversee the education of their children. “As those first responsible for the education of their children, parents have the right to choose a school for them that corresponds to their own convictions. This right is fundamental. As far as possible parents have the duty of choosing schools that will best help them in their task as Christian educators. Public authorities have the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and of ensuring the concrete conditions for its exercise” (CCC 2229).

As public schools have become more secular in their curriculums, with some even hostile to the expression of religious views, parents have been forced to find alternatives that are “consonant with Catholic convictions.” This has led to a modest revival in diocesan and private Catholic education. It has also led many parents to enroll their children in private schools without religious affiliation or non-sectarian Christian schools. For those who cannot find or afford private schools, homeschooling has become the most viable option.

The problem of choosing a private school is that many Catholic parents cannot afford it, even at the reduced prices often available at parish schools. For this reason, some Catholic leaders have made a prudential judgment to support the idea of school choice.

Choice in education means that parents who qualify can receive an annual stipend from the government for use at private schools. Some would argue, however, that the state should not provide financial support for those parents who choose to send their children to parochial schools. Their argument is based on the perceived threat of such contributions to the separation of church and state.

Yet if the voucher system is limited only to public schools and non-sectarian private schools, the majority of private schools will be left out of the mix. Furthermore, most non-sectarian private schools are well beyond the financial reach of parents, even those who receive government subsidies.

So, in essence, a voucher program that excludes parochial schools is really a public school program. For reasons already discussed, this is not much of a choice for those Catholic parents who are concerned with the direction of public education.

Economic Issues

“A business cannot be considered only as a ‘society of capital goods’; it is also a ‘society of persons’ in which people participate in different ways and with specific responsibilities, whether they supply the necessary capital for the company’s activities or take part in such activities through their labour” (Centesimus Annus, 43).

The well-being of our families, communities, and nation depends on the success of business and industry to create wealth. The greater the growth of industry, the more stable our society becomes: “Another name for peace is development. Just as there is a collective responsibility for avoiding war, so too there is a collective responsibility for promoting development” (Centesimus Annus, 52).

Businesses and industries create the wealth that provides financial support for their workers, both blue and white collar, and their families through earned wages, medical benefits, life insurance, disability, and pension plans. Without these wages and benefits, most workers would be unable to obtain the necessary goods of life. They would also be unable to support the present levels of government services and programs through the payment of taxes. The quality of life for all citizens, regardless of their income brackets, is thus proportionate to the success of their nation’s business and industry. It is therefore in the interest of every citizen that the economic sector grows and prospers.

Government, as a promoter of the common good, has an obligation to ensure that social and economic conditions promote business development. More often than not, as argued in John Paul II’s encyclical Centesimus Annus (1991), this can best be achieved by allowing market forces to act freely. As shown by the decline of communism, the state does not generally make the best allocations of capital when it is the sole decision-maker.

The more that regulations are imposed by government, the less room is left for entrepreneurial enterprise and creative decision-making. According to the principle of subsidiarity, corporate executives and managers should be allowed to control their own economic development, within the boundaries of law and morality.

At the same time—and again in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity—the government has a responsibility to protect the weak and vulnerable from unethical behavior. Government also has a duty to protect the rights of workers by ensuring decent working conditions, establishing fair wages, and holding corporate leaders accountable for breaking the laws governing corporate behavior.

Accountability is thus a social partnership between the private sector and the government. Private industry professionals and associations play an important role in setting appropriate standards for particular professions, businesses, and industries. Legislative and executive bodies also must set standards for responsible conduct through the passage and enforcement of appropriate laws to protect society as a whole from abuses.

Often referred to as the backbone of the U.S. economy, small businesses account for 99 percent of employers and, with the recent movement of formerly American factories and jobs offshore, now create between 60 percent and 75 percent of net new jobs annually. Pope Leo XIII wrote, “The law, therefore, should favor ownership, and its policy should be to induce as many as possible of the people to become owners” (Rerum Novarum, 46).

Taxation

“In a system of taxation based on justice and equity it is fundamental that the burdens be proportioned to the capacity of the people contributing” (Mater et Magistra, 132).

Every citizen has a moral obligation to contribute to the common good. In financial terms, this responsibility is carried out primarily through a person’s labor and the wealth it creates. But a citizen also contributes through the payment of taxes, which are used to fund the cost of government.

Balancing this tax burden is a matter of prudential judgment. Taxes that are adjusted to income levels are designed to place more of the burden on the wealthy. However, some argue that this policy penalizes those who are successful and may actually deter others who would otherwise work to earn more. In response, some have suggested a flat tax, in which all citizens pay the same tax rate, or a consumption tax, based upon what an individual spends.

How the combination of progressive and regressive taxes is balanced is a source of much debate. Regardless of the solution, taxation policy should not become a weapon in class warfare. Citizens should work together to create a solution that is fair to all sides. The common good should be the goal of any taxation policy, not the interests of one particular class.

A just tax system is one that is based on a citizen’s ability to pay. In supporting their nation and communities, taxpayers should not find themselves unable to provide for their own families or maintain their businesses. Workers should earn enough money to pay their taxes and still take home a “living wage.” Traditional families should also be encouraged. This means that a husband working full-time should be able to support his wife and children at home.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Many mothers are forced to leave their children in order to earn second incomes because of the amount of tax the fathers must pay out of their incomes. This economic pressure adds to the stress and emotional cost to parents and their children. This is why the USCCB has supported family-friendly tax legislation, such as tax credits for children and direct rebates to low-income families with dependents. The bishops’ conference has also supported adjustments that would reduce the “marriage penalty” by increasing the qualifying amount for married workers.

Large corporations, small businesses, and other institutions that employ workers also have a significant impact on family stability, as well as on society as a whole. In addition to paying workers’ wages, corporations provide financial support for the common good by paying federal and state income taxes. These taxes represent another major source of revenue for the government.

To sustain the corporations and businesses that provide employment and financial support, the government should ensure that corporate taxes are low enough for both large and small companies to operate at optimal levels. “Governments must provide regulations and a system of taxation which encourage firms to preserve the environment, employ disadvantaged workers, and create jobs in depressed areas. Managers and stockholders should not be torn between their responsibilities to their organizations and their responsibilities toward society as a whole” (USCCB, Economic Justice for All, 118).

Poverty

“Those who are oppressed by poverty are the object of a preferential love on the part of the Church which, since her origin and in spite of the failings of many of her members, has not ceased to work for their relief, defense, and liberation through numerous works of charity which remain indispensable always and everywhere” (Libertatis Conscientia, 68).

This “preferential option for the poor” challenges Catholics to make a special effort to help those in poverty. How this is translated into public policy is a matter for prudential judgment. But it’s clear from other aspects of the Church’s social teaching that Catholics must be careful not to undermine any person’s right to self-determination and autonomy, as has been witnessed by some forms of welfare assistance.

The principle of social justice combines the notion that persons are responsible for exercising their freedom to obtain the goods of life, and that these goods are proportionate to their inherent dignity. But there are some who cannot obtain these goods without assistance. One of the most contentious issues in modern politics is the question of what and how much should be provided by the community or the state.

Catholic social teaching does not justify the growth of a federal welfare state. A wealthy state that provides for the less fortunate is to be preferred to the socialist state where everyone is equally poor. The goal of Catholic social teaching is to provide the conditions for persons to obtain the goods appropriate to the dignity of their existence.

One way in which the government can most appropriately weed out the roots of poverty is through a sound fiscal policy. At a minimum, the Church advocates regulated income levels and working conditions that promote self-respect and self-sufficiency: “The amount a worker receives must be sufficient, in proportion to available funds, to allow him and his family a standard of living consistent with human dignity” (Pacem in Terris, 20).

The federal government should also enact legislation that motivates the unemployed to move from the welfare lines to the workforce. We should not embrace policies that encourage the unemployed to become dependent on the government, thereby losing their incentives to become self-sufficient.

Health Care

“Life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good. Concern for the health of its citizens requires that society help in the attainment of living conditions that allow them to grow and reach maturity: food and clothing, housing, health care, basic education, employment, and social assistance” (CCC 2288).

The number of uninsured in our country continues to be a major problem. As Catholics, we are called to respect the dignity of people by defending their basic right to health care. The principle of subsidiarity teaches that government must become involved when there is a problem that cannot be solved at the local level.

Throughout this country’s history, Catholic hospitals—622 as of 2002—have steadfastly fulfilled the moral obligation to care for the sick. But faith-based medical services, along with publicly funded hospitals and clinics, are strained to take care of the uninsured.

Insured patients are also financially strained to meet the rising costs of health care. Most rely on their employee benefit plans, which are less expensive than private insurance policies. However, the costs are still high, and some companies are scaling back their benefit programs. Other companies and professions do not offer any benefits at all.

Another health-care issue that has surfaced is that of conscience protections. Following the passage of Roe v. Wade, Congress protected the rights of health organizations and providers to refuse to perform abortions under the conscientious objection principle. Today, this question is returning with a vengeance.

In recent years, “reproductive rights” advocates have pushed for expanded health-care coverage that would force all employee health plans to include contraception and “emergency contraception.” The Catholic health-care ministry is based on the protection of life and preservation of the dignity of people. Procedures that are contrary to this mission (abortion, euthanasia, and contraception) cannot be provided by Catholic hospitals or supported by Catholic health-care plans.

Religious Liberty

“This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that . . . no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits” (Dignitatis Humanae, 2).

Because they are created by God, human beings have an intrinsic dignity. Their desire to practice religion is an expression of their dignity and must be considered a fundamental human right. Since religious belief is not uniform, the duty to respect religious liberty requires tolerance and respect for pluralism. The state must govern in a manner that allows full religious expression according to the dictates of the particular faith.

The goal of religious liberty is twofold: freedom of religious expression and suppression of those individuals or groups who would impose their beliefs on others. Protection of the common good can take precedence over an individual’s right to religious expression. Therefore, religious liberty does not protect those who promote violent demonstrations of faith or call people to commit violent acts.

The issue that most people identify with religious liberty—the display of religious symbols—is the easiest to resolve. The founding of America was rooted in Judeo-Christian teachings that were incorporated into our legal system and fundamental democratic charter and documents. In this regard, the distinct influence of the Ten Commandments cannot be ignored.

In the interest of respecting the complementary principles of religious tolerance and respect for historic traditions, the Ten Commandments have long been posted in our public places. Likewise, Christmas manger scenes should be allowed in public places along with menorahs or other symbols that show respect for religious traditions. Recently the “under God” phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance has come under attack, signifying the intent of secularizers to remove any symbol or mention of religion from the public arena.

During the past 35 years, government authorities have implicitly established secularism as an official state religion. Secularism has taken many forms: the removal of voluntary religious instruction in public schools; the banning of voluntary private prayer in public schools; employment discrimination against those who openly practice their faith; the promotion of an atheist “ethos”; and mandatory contraceptive coverage in health plans. “It is therefore difficult . . . to accept a position that gives only atheism the right of citizenship in public and social life, while believers are, as though by principle, barely tolerated or are treated as second-class citizens” (Redemptor Hominis, 17).

For the first 125 years of the American experience, government authorities relied upon the charitable work performed by faith-based organizations. It is only in more recent years that government social-service and education agencies have withheld financial support.

This is discriminatory. Secular organizations and faith-based organizations should play on a level playing field in competing for government funds. However, faith-based organizations that accept government funding must not be forced to sacrifice their religious liberties. A Catholic maternity center that receives a government grant must not be required to hire an abortion advocate.

Immigration

“Every human being has the right to freedom of movement and of residence within the confines of his own country; and, where there are just reasons for it, the right to emigrate to other countries and take up residence there” (Pacem in Terris, 25).

Persons emigrate from one country to another for a variety of reasons. It may be for reasons of stark persecution, the desire to escape poverty, or to seek greater opportunity. The Church views immigration as a right that should be recognized by every nation. That right is rooted in the belief that each person should have access to the basic goods that constitute the universal common good.

The willingness for one country to accept persons across the borders and offer them a home is emblematic of the unity of the human family and an act of human solidarity. Some political leaders have spared no effort to restrict—and, in some cases, end—legal immigration to the United States. They argue that new immigrants do not assimilate to the American way of life and pose a threat to the jobs of U.S. citizens.

Some immigrants may just need time to adjust to American life and culture. In fact, a period of living in ethnic communities may be what immigrants need to prepare for mainstream society. Given the core of Catholic social teaching, any political candidate who impedes this process or betrays a hostile attitude toward immigrants would be found wanting.

The prosperity of the United States is not only attractive; according to the Catechism it places a special obligation on its citizens and elected representatives: “The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin” (CCC 2241).

The Church also recognizes that a country has the right to monitor and set reasonable limits on immigration, especially now when the threat of terrorist infiltration raises concerns about immigrants from the Middle East. The United States may also protect its cultural patrimony, which some immigrants to America do not share. But citizens should not fall into nationalist rhetoric that would reject most immigrants both now and in the future.

Environment

“Man, who discovers his capacity to transform and in a certain sense create the world through his own work, forgets that this is always based on God’s prior and original gift of the things that are. Man thinks that he can make arbitrary use of the earth, subjecting it without restraint to his will, as though it did not have its own requisites and a prior God-given purpose, which man can indeed develop but must not betray” (Centesimus Annus, 37).

Man’s relationship with the environment is subject to various principles of Catholic social teaching, such as solidarity and prudence, and the preferential option for the poor. The Church does not think environmental issues can be resolved through economic or scientific means alone—the underlying moral and cultural causes must be addressed if changes are to become permanent.

Since creation, the Church teaches, men and women have been made the stewards of this world. Despite this authority, we do not have an unfettered rule over the environment. Our control is subject to the same restrictions that are imposed on governing bodies: Just as governments serve to protect the common good, so too must we recognize our solidarity with nature.

Prudence requires that nations and their leaders apply intelligence when making decisions that affect the environment. Unfortunately, some are more concerned with meeting their economic and consumer goals than in responsibly carrying out their stewardship roles. As a result, the common good has been threatened from an array of environmental issues, including pollution and nuclear waste.

Arguably the more significant factor in environmental crises has been the rise of consumerism and over-consumption: “In many parts of the world society is given to instant gratification and consumerism while remaining indifferent to the damage which these cause. Simplicity, moderation and discipline, as well as a spirit of sacrifice, must become a part of everyday life, lest all suffer the negative consequences of the careless habits of a few” (John Paul II, The Ecological Crisis).

Rather than addressing issues of protecting natural resources or curbing consumerism, the affluent nations tend to focus more on reducing third-world birth rates. Foreign aid packages that are sent to Africa from USAID and other federally funded relief organizations often contain materials directed toward population control, such as contraception and voluntary sterilization. Even if these initiatives were successful, the impact on the environment would not be nearly as significant as reduced consumption. The sheer number of people is not the problem. Some of the most densely populated areas of the world are both affluent and ecologically secure.

To be fair, the leaders of the developed world have taken steps to curb their excessive consumerism. But men and women, the natural stewards of all creation, must continue to focus their creativity on more responsible development: “Even as humanity’s mistakes are at the root of earth’s travail today, human talents and invention can and must assist in its rebirth and contribute to human development” (USCCB, Renewing the Earth).

©Deal W. Hudson

The 2012 Dark Horse?

Deal Hudson
Published March 10, 2012

Most conversations in Washington these days end up running down the list of likely GOP candidates who will run for the presidential nomination in 2012. The strengths and weaknesses of Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, and Haley Barbour are quickly calculated; but when it comes to one name, the conversation falters. Not too much is known about Jon M. Huntsman Jr., the present U.S. ambassador to China, who turned 51 a few days ago.

Most people only know Huntsman as a wealthy Mormon. He and his wife Mary have seven children, with one daughter adopted from China and another from India. His father, Jon M. Huntsman Sr., served two years in the Navy before beginning work for an egg-production company. Having helped to develop the first plastic egg carton, the elder Huntsman began the slow climb to become one of the wealthiest men in America.

Like his father, Huntsman attended the University of Utah, and after a brief stint in Taipei went to work in the Reagan White House, first as staff assistant, then as deputy assistant secretary of commerce. President George H. W. Bush appointed him ambassador to Singapore, and President George W. Bush made him a deputy United States trade representative. In November 2004, Huntsman was elected as the Republican governor of Utah; in 2008, he was reelected with 77.7 percent of the vote. At the 2008 GOP convention in St. Paul, it was Governor Huntsman who gave the speech that introduced Sarah Palin for the vice-presidential nomination.

The nomination of a Republican governor as ambassador to China was prompted in part by Huntsman’s knowledge of Mandarin Chinese, as well as his expertise in international business through the Huntsman Corporation and the diplomatic experience he gained working for both Reagan and Bush. Politico speculated at the time that it may have been a calculated move by Obama to hurt Huntsman’s chance of becoming the GOP presidential nominee.

After the announcement of Huntsman’s resignation, as ambassador to China, effective in May 2011, reporters at Politico wrote:

The political calculus behind that praise [from the White House] is straightforward: by wrapping their arms around some of the GOP’s most credible and deep-pocketed potential challengers, Democrats undermine the party’s attempt to win over its conservative base in the primary.

The scrutiny began when Huntsman’s supporters created the Horizon PAC in August 2010, but it wasn’t until the PAC launched its official website last February with its teaser “Maybe Someday” that the vetting began in earnest. The question most asked about Huntsman is how Obama’s ambassador to China, ostensibly a “moderate” Republican, could gain the nomination of a party presently being fueled by the energy of Tea Party and social conservative activists.

Huntsman’s record suggests the possibility is not so far-fetched as some might think. Social conservatives may not realize that, as governor, he signed three pro-life bills to help limit abortions in the state of Utah. Huntsman also signed the most important school choice voucher program in the nation, a universal program not limited to low-income students in a particular district or poorly performing schools. Huntsman also signed legislation protecting the Second Amendment rights of Americans to own firearms.

As a fiscal conservative, Huntsman’s credentials are unquestioned. While governor, Utah won an award from the Pew Center’s Government Performance Project as the “Best Managed State in the Union,” and in 2007 Huntsman signed the largest tax cut in Utah’s history, earning his state the Cato Institute’s number-one ranking in tax policy. Last year, Forbes magazine described Utah as the nation’s leading state in job growth and the “best state” for business and careers. On top of all this, Utah’s economy has recorded five consecutive years of 3.5 percent annual growth.

On Huntsman’s effort to reform health care in Utah, he does not share the vulnerability of the other Mormon candidate seeking the GOP nomination, Mitt Romney. While Romney’s health care program in Massachusetts is seen by many as a prototype for Obamacare, Huntsman’s health care measures in Utah were designed to give individuals and families choices about their coverage and how to pay for it. For example, one piece of legislation gave citizens of Utah the ability to take defined contributions from their employers and buy their own coverage. Utah created a website called NetCare, allowing citizens to shop and compare health insurance programs.

The better-known GOP frontrunners for the nomination each has obstacles to overcome: Pawlenty will have to explain to Catholic voters why he left the Church of his birth; Romney’s Achilles heel is health care; Gingrich’s personal history will continue to dog him, and so on.

But Huntsman has a chance to define himself on the basis of a solid record in the midst of a field of candidates with multiple handicaps. There is good reason why David Plouffe, the former campaign manager for President Obama, said the prospect of a Huntsman candidacy makes him “a wee bit queasy.”

The Clerical Smile–The Chief Obstacle to Catholic Political Participation

Deal Hudson
Published May 29, 2012

When asked in 1999 to lead Governor Bush’s Catholic outreach, I assumed the chief obstacle to overcome was the deeply embedded loyalty to a distorted version of the “seamless garment” found in many of the Catholic institutions of our nation.

Under this brand, the Catholic concern for the most poor and vulnerable among us was being used if not to dismiss outright, at least hide out of sight, the issue of abortion. Why this happened to the venerable Catholic understanding of social justice has been chronicled numerous times, but the bottom line is this: When the Democratic Party made the ideological issues of secular feminism a litmus test for party loyalty, millions of Catholics including thousands of clergy had to make a choice.As a result of this choice, the “Catholic voter” was destabilized. No longer reliable Democrats, some Catholics became registered Republicans and many became de facto independents or swing voters. Although at present there are still more self-identified Democrats among Catholic voters, the history of the presidential elections since the late sixties exhibits a level of volatility capable of swinging the election back and forth between the two major political parties.By focusing on the swing Catholic voters who attended Mass regularly, Bush was very successful in 2000 and 2004 in regaining the Catholic support lost to the Democrats during the Clinton years. Senator McCain made little effort in this regard, while Obama’s religious outreach team did an outstanding job of selling a pro-abortion candidate to Catholics as a president who would “lower” the abortion rate. (It goes without saying they will have a harder sell this time around!)I initiated Catholic Advocate in 2006 with the hope of continuing independently the work of identifying, educating, and organizing Catholic voters, and after six years have handed it off to the next generation of leadership. But, though I hope in the future to begin addressing once again a wider range of religious and cultural issues, there is one lesson I learned that I feel compelled to share – the problem of what I will call “the clerical frown.”There is a widespread inclination among U.S. Catholics to ask their priest or their bishop for permission to become politically active, beyond the simple obligation of voting on Election Day. Thus, the problem I describe could also be called an improper form of “lay deference,” but I’m equally struck by how often those lay Catholics who sought guidance were met, not by an explicit veto, but by a gesture of disapproval, i.e., the clerical frown.Catholics have highly developed antennae, I have learned, for when Father is displeased, and many of them allow that displeasure to shape their attitudes and action in the political sphere. Obviously when it comes to the teaching of the Church, the laity is constantly being taught and formed by our clergy and bishops. But, does the teaching of the Church extend to decisions by the laity about whether to be a Republican or a Democrat, or to become active in an independent group like Catholic Advocate, the Susan B. Anthony List, or National Right to Life?The willingness of some clergy to employ their “frowns” to dissuade laity from certain kinds of political participation is far too common in my experience. But, I am less surprised by this than I am by the willingness of Catholic laity to care about expressions of clerical displeasure when it comes to politics. Of course, if a Catholic asks his priest if it’s OK to join a neo-Nazi party then something more than a frown is called for, but there is not such an “extreme” in question here (unless there are those who consider it extreme to place abortion and marriage at the top of a political issue list!)I am writing this to and for grown-ups. We all know that much human communication, including that between priests and laity, is exercised without the explicit language of “yes” and “no.” And since priests are just as human as the rest of us, they must be allowed “gut reactions” when asked for their opinions on any topic, whether it be politics, baseball, or the latest movie sequel. But our clergy surely know the power they wield with their body language and facial expressions, much less their praise and condemnations.The solution is two-fold: Lay Catholics simply need to affirm their obligation to engage fully in the political process without asking for permission from their pastor or their bishop. The Church itself teaches that prior permission is not required but that participation should be guided by the teaching of the Holy Father and the bishops. The clerical frown, as I call it, should be retired in regard to political matters. Catholic political participation is too important a matter to be disturbed by the political party preferences of our clergy. The Church does not care if a Catholic is a Democrat or a Republican; she cares about the work that is being done under that, or another banner.

Five Things Every Catholic Politician Needs to Know

Deal W. Hudson
Published June 12, 2012

Any earnest Catholic who either runs for political office, or is attempting to hold office, deserves both our admiration and our prayers. Because it is the Catholic politician, more than the politician who identifies with other religious traditions, who finds himself or herself immersed in a series of volatile crosscurrents that, if not surveyed in advance, can drown a candidacy and even a career.

But it’s precisely the earnest Catholic politician, as I put it, who assumes knowledge of the Catholic voter is acquired by years of practicing the faith. Well, yes and no. Certainly any practicing Catholics should have been schooled in the fundamentals of their faith as applied to politics and political policy. Yet, the chronicle of Catholics in politics over the past fifty years shows this not to be the case: The marked differences in what Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D, CA) and Rep. Chris Smith (R, NJ) believe to be a Catholic approach to politics illustrate the present state of affairs. Indeed, the majority of Catholic members of Congress over the past fifty years have come from the Pelosi mold, rather than that of pro life, pro family Chris Smith.

Catholic politicians need to know their faith, that is axiomatic, but what follows is not just a list of first principles, which is available in numerous Church documents. Here is a list of practical advice to the Catholic politician who, like Rep. Chris Smith, attempts to represent the faith without caving in to the pressures of the secular, and Catholic, “progressives.”

1. If you are Republican, pro life, and pro family, at least half of the institutional Church will be disposed to oppose you. I can’t remember all the times I have talked to Catholic candidates who are completely bewildered by the antagonism they have encountered among various parts of the institutional Church, from the parish and chancery to the bishops and their conference. (I will leave an explanation of that antagonism to another day, another article!)

2. The legacy of the “seamless garment” is real and remains a matter of constant vigilance in Catholic voter outreach. In spite of the articulate efforts of leaders like Deacon Keith Fournier, there exists a deep division among Catholics who consider themselves pro life and those who embrace the moniker of “social justice.” It’s fatal for a Catholic politician to assume this division can be ignored because it distorts the Church’s teaching that social justice begins with respect for the unborn and vulnerable lives.

3. “Social justice” Catholics will go to the most outlandish lengths imaginable to find fault with the pro life records of Catholic politicians and to defend the pro life credentials of those who are pro abortion or, as they prefer, “pro choice.” Under the banner of caring about human life “after birth,” this “progressive” Catholic crowd will elevate any and all of their political priorities to the pro life category. For example, if a Catholic member of Congress suggests an entitlement program does not need to be expanded by, say, 5%, the Catholic “progressives” will scream and yell about “abandoning the poor,” and the pummeling will begin.

4. The good news in all this is that “progressives” constantly give their version of the Catholic politician bad advice. They recently led President Obama into the briar patch of denying religious liberty to Catholic institutions by demanding they pay for contraception and sterilization in their health insurance plans. The argument was that most Catholic women use contraception, therefore, Catholics will accept this historical encroachment on religious liberty. It never occurred to any of Obama’s religious advisers to consider that the Catholic woman who does use contraception may cringe at the thought of the federal government demanding the Catholic Church pay for her birth control pills! A big distinction here – evidently lost on the Obama administration.

5. Catholic voters, for the most part, do not like to be talked to like evangelical voters. Catholic politicians who adopt an evangelical style will win some Catholic support for their “bold” tone, but much more support will quietly edge away in discomfort. It’s not complicated, just follow the first rule of rhetoric: Know your audience! Or, to put it another way, one size does not fit all! Avoid a self righteous, moralizing tone with Catholic voters, but state clearly your commitment to life and marriage while extending that concern to those in society who need the maintenance of the government’s “safety net.” Catholics are a compassionate people who wince at the language of “cut backs” and “smaller government,” unless these notions are explained in a way that allays their fears that the poor will be abandoned.

The list could be longer, but these are the essentials. The 2010 election saw a new generation of pro life, pro family Catholics elected to the Congress: This freshman class is already the announced target of an intense effort by “progressives” who will attempt to twist their concern for the budget as “anti life.” Whether or not they survive will depend on how successfully this freshman class responds to the attack, or, even better, inoculates themselves in advance.

Catholics Prepare for Obama Phone Calls

Deal W. Hudson
Published September 28, 2012

The head of a pro-life committee at a parish I know just received a call from the Obama campaign. The caller asked for her daughter by name, and when she was not there then asked where she could be contacted. Her mother responded by telling the Obama supporter, “not to waste her time as my daughter is supporting the pro-life candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.”

When the caller hesitated and acted surprised, the mother, a staunch pro-life Catholic, said:”My daughter is a practicing Catholic and would never cast a vote for a pro-abortion, pro-same sex marriage, pro-embryonic stem cell research, pro-euthanasia candidate who supported the HHS mandate that will take away religious freedoms from Catholic hospitals, Catholic charities, and Catholic institutions.”The Obama supporter then launched into her “canned response” and started reading from her call script: “Well, I am a practicing Catholic, and I strongly support President Obama.” The mother then asked her if she was “familiar with the Pope’s five “non-negotiable’s.”‘ The Obama supporter had no idea what she was talking about and explained that it was only the Pope’s “opinion” to ban the use of contraception.The Obama caller then went back to her script, asking these clever questions:1. How can you support a “Mormon” who does not believe in Jesus Christ?

2. What to you think about the “Nuns on the Bus” who support Obama?

The mother replied, “How can you support a man who supports the killing of innocent pre-born children for all nine months?”Then, she added, “How can you support a president who denigrates the Sacrament of Marriage by supporting same sex marriage which is against the teaching of the Church?”The Catholic mother then concluded with, “How can you as a Catholic support a president who supports partial birth abortion and did not support the Born Alive Protection Act when he was a state senator in Illinois?”Now, get this! The Obama supporter, again reading from her call script, countered, “President Obama did not support abortion.”As the chair of a pro-life committee, this Catholic woman was more than up to the task of correcting the caller. She asked her “to do some homework.” For example, did she notice that as recently as the Democratic Convention “pro-abortion speakers and supporters of Planned Parenthood were the featured speakers?”Then came the biggest whopper of all. The Obama supporter said, “Planned Parenthood helps children get health care and prenatal care and does not promote abortion.”Stunning, isn’t it? The lies people are willing to tell…The pro-life Catholic then asked the caller her name, but she would only reveal her first name, Cheryl, to a “crack pot.” Rather than “losing her cool” at being addressed in such a manner, the mother continued to educate the Obama supporter about the things she was misrepresenting about Planned Parenthood and its abortion business; about abortion itself.”Have you ever watched an abortion?” she asked the caller. The mother had been an RN and volunteered at a crisis pregnancy clinic. She suggested to the Catholic Obama supporter to “enlighten herself on the abortion procedure; that it was the slaughter of innocent children and not a penny of my tax money should support the killing of an innocent child.”As far as the “nuns on the bus” were concerned, she told the caller, “The Vatican is in the process of investigating their activities.” As far as Mitt being a Mormon she said, “I support him.”Catholics across the nation should be prepared to receive these deceitful and dissembling phone calls. They should learn from this Catholic mother, this pro-life warrior and RN, to speak the truth, with charity, to those who are willing to tell lies in support of their favored political candidate.These Catholics for Obama calls are coming your way – the scripts are written, their call centers are ready, and they are well-funded.