Sifting Through the Wreckage: George Weigel

November 8, 2012

This excellent piece by George Weigel is in the National Review.  It is worth reading in its entirety to give perspective on the re-election of President Obama.  BCI shares excerpts here:

Sifting Through the Wreckage

The most inane insta-pundit commentary had it that the 2012 election “hadn’t really changed anything,” what with President Obama still in the White House, the House still in Republican hands, and the Senate still controlled by Democrats. The truth of the matter, of course, is that a great deal changed, somewhere around 11 p.m. EST on Tuesday, November 7, when Ohio was declared for the president and the race was effectively over. To wit:

Obamacare, the governmental takeover of one-sixth of the U.S. economy, is now set in legislative concrete, and the progressive campaign to turn ever-larger numbers of citizens into wards of the state has been given a tremendous boost — with electoral consequences as far as the eye can see.

A war in the Middle East is now almost certain, and sooner rather than later; as if the previous three and a half years of fecklessness were not enough, the cast of mind manifest in the administration’s abdication of responsibility in Benghazi will have likely convinced a critical mass of the Israeli leadership that they have no choice but to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities in self-defense. The economic chaos resulting from military conflict in the Persian Gulf (and beyond) will further deepen the European fiscal crisis while making an already weak American economic recovery even more anemic.

The children and grandchildren of November 6’s voters have been condemned to bear the burden of what is certainly an unpayable mountain of debt, and may be an unserviceable amount of debt, which in either case will be an enormous drag on the economy, even as it mortgages America’s strategic options in Asia to the holders of U.S. government bonds in Beijing.

The American culture war has been markedly intensified, as those who booed God, celebrated an unfettered abortion license, canonized Sandra Fluke, and sacramentalized sodomy at the Democratic National Convention will have been emboldened to advance the cause of lifestyle libertinism through coercive state power, thus deepening the danger of what a noted Bavarian theologian calls the “dictatorship of relativism.”

Religious freedom and civil society are now in greater jeopardy than ever, as what was already the most secularist and statist administration in history will, unfettered by reelection concerns, accelerate its efforts to bring free voluntary associations to heel as de facto extensions of the state.

Nothing changed? In a pig’s eye.

And here, too, is something for Republican strategists to ponder while sifting through the wreckage. Mitt Romney made himself a better candidate throughout 2012, and for one brief, electric moment at the first debate, he seemed like a leader with vision, passion, and wit. But a recovery of American greatness — cultural, political, economic, diplomatic, and military greatness — was not the driving theme of the Romney campaign. Not knowing Mitt Romney personally, I can’t say whether this obviously decent and successful man simply lacked the understanding necessary to make the case for true American renewal, as distinct from the faux hope-and-change mantra that had seduced so many in 2008. But whatever Romney’s personal inclinations, many Republican campaign managers and consultants always seemed afraid of scaring the horses. Obama would be beaten, they insisted, on grounds of competence, not by a campaign that called the country to recognize that it need not settle for mediocrity, a campaign that summoned America to new heights of achievement.

The themes for such a campaign were not difficult to imagine; they could have been built around a recasting of FDR’s four freedoms. Freedom of religion: No government bureaucrat in Washington is going to tell your religious community how to conduct its affairs. Freedom from fear: A Romney administration will not tolerate the burning of American embassies and the torture and murder of our diplomats by the thugs of al-Qaeda and their jihadist allies. Freedom for excellence and accomplishment: Unshackling American ingenuity from the restraints of government interference will unleash new wealth-creating and wealth-distributing energies, even as that liberation empowers the poor to lead lives of self-responsibility through honest and dignified work. And freedom from unpayable debt: Your children and grandchildren must not be buried beneath a sludge pile of extravagance sluicing out of a national capital (and an administration) addicted to throwing oceans of money at problems.

Would it have worked? Who knows? But the issues would have been sharpened; the fake issues (“war on women,” “tax breaks for the rich,” etc.) might have been marginalized; and a lot more energy — real political energy, not just energies bent on denying Obama a second term — might have been unleashed.

The countercase, it must be admitted, has something to be said for it. Not the countercase of the culture-wars-averse campaign consultants, but a countercase that would run something like this (and that illustrates another great change, not initiated on election day but confirmed by the results):

Whatever the clumsiness of Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” remark, the hard fact of the matter is that a critical mass of Americans are now so dependent on government (either directly or through public-sector unions) that any appeal to a larger national vision, much less a vision of personal responsibility, is impossible. So try to make the case that a Romney alternative to Obama will fix things without fundamentally altering the relationship between individual citizens (and families) and the post–New Deal, post–Great Society American welfare state.

There is, in hard truth, something here. That half the country was prepared to reelect a manifestly failed president whose personal incapacities, like the incapacities of the bloated governmental bureaucracies over which he presided, were on full display in the weeks before the election, and in venues ranging from North Africa to Staten Island, is a very disturbing “indicator,” as the pollsters like to say. That a goodly proportion of that half of America seemed susceptible to the Obama campaign’s class warfare is also disturbing. But perhaps most disturbing of all is the exit-poll data showing that a healthy majority of the electorate believed Obama more capable than Romney of handling foreign crises: and this, after the lethal fiasco of Benghazi, itself the embodiment of an ideologically driven pusillanimity in foreign policy that has been on display since the president’s apologize-for-America tour at the beginning of his first term. “Missing greatness,” it turns out, is not just a function of who’s in charge. It’s a result of democratic citizens’ not paying attention. Or worse, it’s the result of citizens’ suffering such severe ideological glaucoma that they cannot see what is in front of them.

What has obviously changed, in other words, is American political culture: and it is hard to make a case that that change has been for the better. Shortly after Ohio sealed the deal on Election Night, a friend (who earlier in the evening had said that she was having a hard time recognizing the country she grew up in) sent me an e-mail with a salient Tocqueville quote:

In the United States, the majority rules in the name of the people. This majority is chiefly composed of peaceful citizens who by taste or interest sincerely desire the good of the country. . . . If republican principles are to perish in America, they will succumb only after a long social travail, frequently interrupted, often resumed; they will seem to be reborn several times, and they will disappear without return only when an entirely new people has taken the place of the one that exists in our day.

So let’s spare ourselves the Bertolt Brecht bromide about a displeased government getting itself a new people, which is precisely the opposite of the point here, and ponder the serious question raised by Tocqueville, and put in more contemporary terms by another of my day-after-the-election e-mail correspondents, a former senior White House official:

Is it time 1) to conclude that what began in 1992 has provided 26 years of confirmatory evidence that the American experiment in ordered liberty has given way, decisively and irrevocably, to a crass and stupid commercial (and sexualized) culture, under a technical-administrative state, guided by the view that man is the measure of all things, and 2) to consider a refocusing of political efforts to the local level, which has its own problems of corruption, stupidity, and loss of tradition and virtue, but in some cases may permit of a politics in some measure noble and worthy?

Unwilling to go quite that far into the Slough of Despond, I nonetheless recognize (and commend) the seriousness of the questions posed by these two friends. For while the surface manifestations of national politics (the presidency, control of the houses of Congress) may look “the same” to the less lucid elements of the punditocracy, the question of whether we have become, if not “an entirely new people” (pace Tocqueville’s warning), then a deeply divided people, one large part of which is now wedded to government in ways that gravely erode civic virtue, surely must be part of the post-2012 conversation.

And even if our cultural slide into a cheerful Gomorrah is not, as my second correspondent suggested, “irrevocable,” the effects of the culture of the imperial autonomous (and government-subsidized) Self on our politics must be reckoned with, as Republicans, conservatives, and all those who felt a real emptiness settling upon them at 11 p.m. EST on Tuesday night think through the economic reconstruction, the restoration of fiscal sanity, and the exercise of global responsibility that must be part of a post-Obama America, now unhappily deferred until at least January 2017.

It takes a certain kind of people, living certain indispensable virtues, to make the market and democracy work so that justice, prosperity, and human flourishing are the net results of freedom. That elementary truth — recognized by the Founders, ignored by the newly reelected administration, and avoided by libertarians and Republican campaign consultants — has to be at the center of the conversation about the American future, and about playing good defense during the next four challenging years.

— George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.


Election 2012 Outcome: Religion was a Factor

November 7, 2012

Watching the election results last night was very painful.

The one piece of consolation for BCI in the results was that in Massachusetts, we managed to defeat Question 2, physician-assisted suicide – 51% voted no vs 49% who voted yes. Praise God for that triumph over evil. Kudos to all who worked to defeat it, including Cardinal O’Malley and the team from the archdiocese.  BCI spoke to and heard from people working to oppose the measure in recent weeks, and found it troubling that the compelling moral arguments against physician-assisted suicide worked less well in persuading people to oppose it vs talking about how the law was flawed in its wording.  Still, we are very glad it was defeated, and we hope it does not come back again.

On a local level, we were very disappointed to see pro-abort candidates Elizabeth Warren and Joe Kennedy III win.

Of course, the worse outcome was seeing the most pro-abortion President in our nation’s history get re-elected, and seeing how voters who consider themselves Catholic helped that victory.

Catholics represent more than a quarter of the electorate. According to this Politico article, and this one from the Catholic Sentinel, Obama won Catholic voters 50 percent to 47 percent, though Catholics who attend Mass weekly seem to have favored Romney.  Obama also won 70 percent of the Jewish vote, down from 78 percent in 2008.  Romney carried Protestant voters by a 13-point margin, 56 percent to 43 percent. Here’s more from the Huffington Post:

Obama carried Electoral College votes in several battleground states where religious voters were key parts of the electorate, including Catholic-heavy Ohio, evangelical-heavy Iowa, and Virignia. Another swing stage with a large population of religious voters, Florida, was too close to call by early Wednesday morning.

Initial exit polls — which are expected to change through Wednesday as more results come in — showed a mix bag of support for Obama and Romney among religious voters. Among people who said they attend religious services weekly, for example, exit polls indicated Romney took a significant lead. But among voters who said they attend services “occasionally” or “never,” Obama had large leads.

Early exit poll results also showed Obama losing the overall white evangelical vote to Romney, but winning the overall Catholic vote by just a few points. Among Jewish voters, initial exit polls showed Obama having an overwhelming lead over Romney, but preliminary results also showed him winning a smaller percentage of the Jewish vote than he did four years ago.

And in Maryland and Maine, early reports indicated that ballot initatives that would legalize same-sex marriage — efforts that were strongly opposed by conservative pastors — would pass.

Not good. Religion aside,  Jeff Jacoby, writing in the Boston Globe summarized the Obama victory in this way:

Obama may have eked out a victory, but he won it ugly, and his first term will go down as one of the great squandered boons in American political history. Rarely has a president come to office with such a reservoir of goodwill; rarely has any done so much to poison it. To cling to office, he spent a vast fortune trashing his opponent — a ferocious campaign that epitomized everything he once claimed to oppose.

The last four years changed Obama from the face of “hope and change” to the candidate of “whatever it takes.” What will the next four years bring?

Alas, despite the bad news, we pick ourselves up and carry on.  Much remains in this battle.  A Post-Election 2012 Webcast featuring Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life will take place tonight from 9-10pm and should be a very worthwhile listen. We can also especially take comfort in the scripture readings for today.

From Philippians 2: 12-18, we hear:

My beloved, obedient as you have always been, not only when I am present but all the more now when I am absent, work out your salvation with fear and trembling.
For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work. Do everything without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent,
children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world, as you hold on to the word of life,
so that my boast for the day of Christ may be that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

In Psalm 27, we hear:

R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The LORD is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid?One thing I ask of the LORD; this I seek: To dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, That I may gaze on the loveliness of the LORD and contemplate his temple.I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD, in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD with courage; be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.

The Gospel, Luke 14:25-33 says:

“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

So keep praying, hold onto the Word of God, wait for the Lord with courage, but remember at the same time, we all have to carry our own crosses and follow Christ.

We close today by repeating this Election Prayer to Mary, which is even more meaningful today:

O Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, at this most critical time, we entrust the United States of America to your loving care.
Most Holy Mother, we beg you to reclaim this land for the glory of your Son. Overwhelmed with the burden of the sins of our nation, we cry to you from the depths of our hearts and seek refuge in your motherly protection.
Look down with mercy upon us and touch the hearts of our people. Open our minds to the great worth of human life and to the responsibilities that accompany human freedom.
Free us from the falsehoods that lead to the evil of abortion and threaten the sanctity of family life. Grant our country the wisdom to proclaim that God’s law is the foundation on which this nation was founded, and that He alone is the True Source of our cherished rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
O Merciful Mother, give us the courage to reject the culture of death and the strength to build a new Culture of Life.


Election Day Prayers

November 6, 2012

St. Ignatius said, “Work as if everything depends on you; Pray as if everything depends on God.”

Today is a day to pray, because indeed, it all depends on God.  In Jeremiah 29:12, we hear, “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.”

Please take a few minutes during the day to pray for the election. Here are a number of prayers you might offer for the election.

An Election Prayer to Mary
O Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, at this most critical time, we entrust the United States of America to your loving care.
Most Holy Mother, we beg you to reclaim this land for the glory of your Son. Overwhelmed with the burden of the sins of our nation, we cry to you from the depths of our hearts and seek refuge in your motherly protection.
Look down with mercy upon us and touch the hearts of our people. Open our minds to the great worth of human life and to the responsibilities that accompany human freedom.
Free us from the falsehoods that lead to the evil of abortion and threaten the sanctity of family life. Grant our country the wisdom to proclaim that God’s law is the foundation on which this nation was founded, and that He alone is the True Source of our cherished rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
O Merciful Mother, give us the courage to reject the culture of death and the strength to build a new Culture of Life.

Election Prayer (written by Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life)

O God, we acknowledge You today as Lord, Not only of individuals, but of nations and governments.

We thank You for the privilege Of being able to organize ourselves politically And of knowing that political loyalty Does not have to mean disloyalty to You.

We thank You for Your law, Which our Founding Fathers acknowledged And recognized as higher than any human law.

We thank You for the opportunity that this election year puts before us, To exercise our solemn duty not only to vote, But to influence countless others to vote, And to vote correctly.

Lord, we pray that Your people may be awakened. Let them realize that while politics is not their salvation, Their response to You requires that they be politically active.

Awaken Your people to know that they are not called to be a sect fleeing the world But rather a community of faith renewing the world.

Awaken them that the same hands lifted up to You in prayer Are the hands that pull the lever in the voting booth; That the same eyes that read Your Word Are the eyes that read the names on the ballot, And that they do not cease to be Christians When they enter the voting booth.

Awaken Your people to a commitment to justice, To the sanctity of marriage and the family, To the dignity of each individual human life, And to the truth that human rights begin when Human Lives Begin, And not one moment later.

Lord, we rejoice today That we are citizens of Your kingdom.

May that make us all the more committed To being faithful citizens on earth.

We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Prayer for Our Nation

Dear Beloved God in Heaven

Please give us a president that loves this country and everything it stands for.

Please give us a president who respects you as the one true God.

Please give us a president who will, with your help, restore this nation to its former glory, the way you created her.

Please help us to respect what you have given to us and not take anything for granted ever again.

Please God weaken the evil and strengthen the good both without and within.

May our eyes be opened.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen

AN ELECTION YEAR PRAYER FOR THE FAITHFUL
WITNESS OF CATHOLICS IN THE UNITED STATES
By His Eminence Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke,
Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura

O Lord Jesus Christ, You alone are the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
In Your Church You show us the Way, You teach us the Truth, and You give us Your Life.
Grant, we humbly beg You, that, always and in all things, we may be faithful to You in Your Holy Church,
and to Your Vicar on Earth, the Supreme Pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI.
Grant also, we beg You, that, in these times of decision,
all who profess to be Catholic and who are entrusted with the sacred duty to participate in public life,
may, by the strength of Your grace, unwaveringly follow Your Way and faithfully adhere to Your Truth,
living in You with all their mind and heart, for Your greater glory, the salvation of souls, and the good of our nation. Amen.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America,
Pray for us.
Saint Thomas More, Patron of Religious Freedom,
Pray for us.

Memorare

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.
You might also offer a Rosary and pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet this afternoon.


Election Eve (Nov. 5) Mass and Rosary in Boston

November 4, 2012

Several readers have informed BCI about an Election Eve Mass and Rosary taking place Monday evening, November 5, at St. Clement Eucharistic Shrine, 1105 Boylston Street in Boston.

Here is one of the notices:

As we face an important life-or-death ballot question that would legalize physician-assisted suicide in Massachusetts–as well as local, state, and national elections whose outcomes will affect the lives of the unborn and most vulnerable in society–we pray for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and that God will guide all to use the opportunities of our democracy to shape a society that respects and protects the life, dignity, and rights of the human person from the moment of conception to natural death. Rosary at 7:30pm, Mass at 8pm, followed by Eucharistic Adoration.

A great deal is a stake in this election. The latest polls on Question 2 show a majority of voters support physician-assisted suicide. Locally, polls right now suggest voters leaning towards electing Joe Kennedy III (pro-abortion, with almost no professional work experience) over Sean Bielat (pro-life Catholic with extensive professional experience), and odds favor pro-abortion candidate Elizabeth Warren winning for U.S. Senate over moderate Scott Brown.  The presidential race shows a very tight race, but a clearer path to electoral college victory for the anti-Catholic, extreme pro-abortion incumbent, President Obama, than for Mitt Romney, whose public positions are much better aligned with those of the Catholic Church.

When the going gets tough, the tough get praying. By Monday evening, the 30-second commercials will be mostly done.  The “undecideds” will be deciding.  The pollsters will be spinning their predictions.  Besides helping out on Election day with your preferred candidate, one of the best things faithful Catholics can do is pray.

We know that God hears our prayers and answers them. In Jeremiah 29:12, we hear, “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” In  Exodus 14.13 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear!  Stand firm  and see  the victory the LORD will win for you today. The LORD will fight for you; you have only to keep still.”  Miracles do happen, but it takes faith and prayer. Praying a Rosary today, Monday, and Tuesday is a great way to ask for divine intervention in the election. If you know of a local parish having a prayer gathering for the election, feel free to post a notice via comments. If not, then for those in the  local Boston area, BCI would encourage you to consider gathering at St. Clements in Boston on Monday evening.

*   *   *   *

One more thing.  A few faithful Catholics continue to talk about not voting in the Massachusetts Senate race because Scott Brown (who actually has a mixed to decent voting record on life issues)  is campaigning as pro-choice, thereby making it almost certain that the rabidly pro-abortion Elizabeth Warren (who has been endorsed by NARAL) will win. Or in the presidential race, they plan to throw their vote away on a third-party candidate who has no chance of winning, thus taking their vote away from Mitt Romney, who is within striking distance of winning, so they will in effect, help re-elect Obama.  We hope if any readers are feeling that way, you reconsider.  Here are a few articles that might sway you better than BCI.

Is There a Lesser of Two Evils?
Citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), and writings from St. Thomas Aquinas and Blessed John Paul II, the piece concludes:

“It is therefore quite clear from the moral theology tradition and specific magisterial teaching that a Catholic may vote for a candidate who does not wholly embrace Catholic teaching on the non-negotiable issues.

This can be done:

  • in order to limit the evil that would result if a worse candidate on these issues were elected;
  • provided that this is predominately the intention of voting (other good but lesser motives may also be present); and
  • that the other candidate is indeed worse, and any scandal caused by the appearance of voting for evil is corrected, such as by explaining Catholic teaching and one’s full adherence to it.”

ELECTION 2012: Beware the ‘lesser-of-two-evils’ trap

So if, rather than casting your ballot for Romney/Ryan, you vote for a third-party presidential candidate like the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson or the Constitution Party’s Virgil Goode, or write in some name like “Jesus” or “God” or “Ron Paul” (I cite these examples since some people are claiming this is how they will cast their vote for president), or if you refuse to vote, you are knowingly contributing to the continued reign of Barack Obama, the most catastrophic president in history, whose actions of late have bordered on treason and who has almost destroyed America in four years and will complete the job in four more.

As I said at the outset, this is a very close election. Every vote counts. Your vote counts. A few ballots in a few key states next week may well determine the destiny of America for all time.

God forbid that good people, believing they are honoring God, upholding higher principle and refraining from supporting evil, would be deceived through their own anger and pride into doing the opposite and betraying all that they love.

May a Catholic Support a Political Candidate Who is Not Completely Pro-Life?

In the current presidential campaign, I have heard some serious Catholics express reservations about voting for Mitt Romney because of the abortion issue. True, they are aware of how rabidly pro-abortion Barack Obama is. They may even consider him—correctly—the most pro-abortion president the U.S. has ever had. He has a consistent track record of embracing every position the hard-core pro-abortion movement favors, including the Freedom of Choice Act, public funding of abortion, overturning the Mexico City Policy (one of his first acts as president), permitting partial-birth abortion, and even allowing abortion-survivor babies to die. This does not even take into account his other positions at odds with Catholic moral teaching such as supporting same-sex “marriage” and the rest of the homosexualist agenda. Still, Mitt Romney permits abortion exceptions—“hard-case” abortions—so there is really no difference between the two candidates. A Catholic, they say, cannot vote for either of them because this shows that both are pro-abortion.

The central question for Catholics is this: Is it morally acceptable to vote for a candidate like Romney who supports abortion rights in some cases when his opponent is a supporter of sweeping abortion rights?

The answer can be discerned from a statement in John Paul II’s encyclical Evangelium Vitae (#73), which is repeated in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (#570), about the moral obligations and restraints on legislators. Since legislators are the ones who are most directly involved in lawmaking, what is said about them applies a fortiori to the voters selecting them and other public decisionmakers: “when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law…” In other words, if legal abortion cannot be outright overturned—which, barring a major confrontation between the political branches and the Supreme Court that the former clearly have no will to initiate, could happen in the U.S. only with the judicial overturning of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton—a legislator can support lesser initiatives or partial correctives even though they leave the norm of permissive legal abortion intact.

In his 2004 pastoral letter when he was Archbishop of St. Louis, Raymond L. Cardinal Burke—who is now the Prefect of Apostolic Signatura (the Church’s equivalent of the Supreme Court)—directly addressed the question of the moral obligations of the Catholic voter. He said that a Catholic who “is clear in his or her opposition to the moral evil of procured abortion could vote for a candidate who supports the limitation of the legality of procured abortion, even though the candidate does not oppose all use of procured abortion, if the other candidate(s) do not support the limitation of the evil of procured abortion.” (#41) This is exactly the situation in the Romney-Obama contest. In fact, Cardinal Burke also affirmed explicitly what I have suggested: the standard of Evangelium Vitae for the legislator is applicable to the voter.

Some might ask, given the fact that neither candidate in an election like the current presidential one is against all abortion, whether Catholics should just refuse to vote. They might consider the fact that few U.S. political candidates say they are against all abortion (they will at least claim the life of the mother exception). That means that such Catholic voters would probably have to sit out every election, or at least all the ones for federal offices. I can hardly think of a better way to minimize the influence of faithful Catholic citizens in American politics.

Cardinal Burke framed the decision to not vote in a circumstance where there is a less than ideal pro-life candidate in moral terms: “the Catholic who chooses not to vote at all, when there is a viable candidate who will advance the common good, although not perfectly, fails to fulfill his or her moral duty.” (#43) The CDF document emphasizes that Catholics may not delegate their political responsibilities to others, which is effectively what happens when one chooses not to vote.

Those who try to resolve this putative dilemma in the current election by not casting a vote for the top of the ticket and maybe also in a Congressional race, and instead just voting for state and local offices, should also ponder these words of Cardinal Burke. They should also note his further point that the Catholic voter must “make a prudent decision regarding what best serves the common good.” (#44) Additionally, those thinking about voting for an obscure third-party candidate should consider whether, under the circumstances, it is a prudent choice (actually, I’m not sure there is a pro-life third-party presidential candidate on many state ballots this year). The same thing obviously applies to write-ins.

Moreover, while all procured abortion is a moral abomination, we have to be realistic on a practical level about drawing an equivalency between an abortion-on-demand candidate or public policy and a hard-cases one. Even the Alan Guttmacher Institute, which was previously the research arm of Planned Parenthood, reports that only .3% of all U.S. abortions are done for reasons of rape, .03% because of incest, .1% because of a threat to the mother’s life, and 98% for mostly reasons of preference. So, the Romney-Obama election is between a man who favors that fewer than .5% of the 1.2 million abortions in the U.S. each year should be legal and one who favors that 100% of them should be.

Perhaps the prudence that Cardinal Burke spoke of is the political application of the old aphorism that the perfect must not become the enemy of the good. It seems to be particularly applicable this election year.


Voting Catholic When Both Candidates are Flawed

October 28, 2012

BCI is having and observing many discussions about the upcoming election–specifically how to vote Catholic when both major party candidates declare themselves pro-choices or have political records that are flawed on Catholic moral issues.  Some Catholics are saying they would rather vote for no one or an independent candidate to stay true to their Catholic values. We would like to present a different perspective called, “It’s the Supreme Court, Stupid.”

A comment from “Fr. J” conveyed a perspective we thought other readers should see:  “If neither major candidate is perfect on moral issues important to Catholics, it is morally permissible to vote for the one likely to do less harm.”

This video version of the Voters Guide for Serious Catholics conveys the same principle at around 6:45:

A transcript of the video can be found here.  Of note is the following passage:

“In some political races, where every candidate endorses positions contrary to non-negotiable principles, choose the candidate who takes the fewest wrong positions and who is likely to do the least harm.”

Now let us bring this home to Massachusetts for the U.S. Senate race and also to the presidential race.  BCI believes, as several readers have stated in comments, that one of the biggest impacts of this election affecting Catholics will be in Supreme Court appointments over the next four years.

For U.S. Senate, Scott Brown and Elizabeth “Liawatha” Warren are both campaigning as pro-choice, but that does not make them both equally flawed. For Catholics, Warren is far more concerning.

Here is a listing of Brown’s positions on abortion and life-related issues–he at least opposes partial-birth abortion, supports conscience exemptions for religious organizations on contraception, and co-sponsored the Women’s Right to Know Act, which would require a woman to wait 24 hours before having an abortion and to review pictures and information detailing the developmental progress of her fetus.

Warren has made her appeal to women along with her support for abortion rights and “women’s reproductive health issues” a big part of her campaign messaging.  Scott Brown responded with ads saying he is also pro-choice. But Warren is extreme. Warren is supported by the pro-abortion, Emily’s List, which is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to help her get elected.

In the third debate, Warren named Elena Kagan as a model Supreme Justice, and criticized Brown for him having voted to reject her nomination. Elena Kagan is pro-abortion and helped advance Bill Clinton’s position in favor of partial birth abortion. Read these two articles to get a sense for the sort of candidate Elizabeth Warren sees as a model for the Supreme Court:

When Kagan Played Doctor: Elena Kagan’s partial-birth abortion scandal

Elena Kagan on abortion: more than meets the eye

In that same debate, Brown named Antonin Scalia as a model Supreme Court Justice.

If you do not think this election is about Supreme Court nominations, think again after you consider a recent Elizabeth Warren campaign ad, and who she has campaigning with her:

Warren’s critique of Brown on issues affecting women is part of a campaign to persuade voters that this election is about which party controls the Senate.

“The next Supreme Court justice could overturn Roe v. Wade,” one of Warren’s recent television ads says. “One vote could make the difference: your vote against a Republican Senate, your vote for Elizabeth Warren.”

At her headquarters last week, Warren was joined by Sandra Fluke, the law student Rush Limbaugh called a “prostitute” for testifying in favor of insurance coverage of contraception. Fluke made the argument that Democratic control of the Senate is crucial to women’s rights.

 “This race here in Massachusetts is important beyond Massachusetts,” Fluke said. “This is a race that could very well decide who controls the Senate for the next term. A vote for Scott Brown is a vote for a Republican majority.”

So, how should a faithful Catholic vote on this one?  Which U.S. Senator would you rather have deciding on whether to approve the next Supreme Court justice–the radically pro-abortion Elizabeth Warren or the moderately pro-choice Scott Brown?  Which do you think will do the least harm?  If you do not want Elizabeth Warren to win, what is the best way to use your one vote to keep her from winning?

  • Do you not vote for anyone?
  • Do you vote for a 3rd party candidate who has no chance at winning (which is essentially throwing away your vote and giving the advantage to Warren)?
  • Or do you hold your nose and vote for Brown, as the candidate with at least some chance of beating Warren, in order to keep the candidate likely to do the most harm out of office?

BCI thinks that decision should be an easy one.

Regarding the presidential race, BCI believes the thought process should be similar.  For serious Catholics, both Obama and Romney are flawed.  Assuming the Senate remains controlled by the Democratic party, would you rather have the next Supreme Court nominees come from Obama or Romney?  Voting for a third-party candidate who has no chance of winning in the Electoral College may feel good the moment when you cast your ballot, but will it feel good the next day if Obama wins?  As “Objective Observer” objectively observed:

“Ask yourself how you will feel, when you wake up on November 7th, and hear that Barack Obama has been re-elected by a razor thin margin, and it’s the votes that went to [the third-party candidate]“

There are times when we would prefer not to vote “for” either candidate, so that leaves voting against the one you like less.”

With respect to either the U.S. Senate race or the presidential election, BCI will restate that we think “It’s the Supreme Court, stupid.”  For the sake of the future of the country, we believe serious Catholics should hold their noses and vote for the candidate who will do the least harm, in order to keep out of office the candidate who will do the most harm.


Archbishop Chaput: Democrats have ‘gotten worse’ on abortion because Catholics haven’t left

October 26, 2012

When it comes to the intersection of the Catholic faith and Catholic teachings with politics, BCI rarely hears better public comments from a bishop than those coming from Archbishop Chaput and Cardinal Burke.  Here is the latest from Archbishop Chaput, as reported by LifeSite News:

Archbishop Chaput: Democrats have ‘gotten worse’ on abortion because Catholics haven’t left

October 24, 2012 (HLIWorldWatch.org) – In a recent video interview with Catholic News Service, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said that the position of the Democrat Party on abortion has “gotten worse” over time because Catholics within the party haven’t taken a strong moral stand and shown a willingness to abandon the Democrat Party.

“I think many of the Democrats have [taken] Democrat Catholic votes for granted because they’ll go with them no matter what the party position might be on abortion,” Archbishop Chaput said. “That’s why the position of the Democrat Party has gotten worse, and worse, and worse as time goes on because Catholics haven’t abandoned them as they’ve moved in that direction.”

Chaput said that in the earliest days of the abortion debate in the United States, most people probably thought that the Republican Party would’ve “easily embraced abortion,” and that Democrats would have been the political party standing for the defense of life because of the large number of Catholics within the party.

“Catholics have been historically part of the Democrat Party in great numbers, and I think really could’ve stopped that great development movement if they tried, but they didn’t in order to accommodate people from the other side of the issue,” he said.

The Archbishop also said that you can’t always trust the Republican Party to stand for the defense of life either.

“You know you can’t trust the Republicans to be pro-life 20 years from now. You can’t let any party take your vote for granted,” said Chaput.

Archbishop Chaput called on Catholics in the United States to put their Catholic identity ahead of their political party, and even their American citizenship, to stand united with the Church’s moral teaching opposing abortion.

“We’re Catholics before we’re Democrats. We’re Catholics before we’re Republicans. We’re even Catholics before we’re Americans because we know that God has a demand on us prior to any government demand on us,” he said. “And this has been the story of the martyrs through the centuries.”

“[Abortion] is a very serious issue that requires absolute adherence on the part of Catholics,” the Archbishop said, “and if we don’t stand united on this issue we’re bound to failure—not only in the area of protecting unborn human life but in maintaining our religious freedom.”

BCI agrees.  Oddly, Cardinal O’Malley, in November 2007 said the following in a Boston Globe interview:

“I think the Democratic Party, which has been in many parts of the country traditionally the party which Catholics have supported, has been extremely insensitive to the church’s position, on the gospel of life in particular, and on other moral issues,” O’Malley said.

Acknowledging that Catholic voters in Massachusetts generally support Democratic candidates who are in favor of abortion rights, O’Malley said, “I think that, at times, it borders on scandal as far as I’m concerned.”

“However, when I challenge people about this, they say, ‘Well, bishop, we’re not supporting [abortion rights],’ ” he said. “I think there’s a need for people to very actively dissociate themselves from those unacceptable positions, and I think if they did that, then the party would have to change.”

That was then, this is now, when Cardinal O’Malley has allowed himself to be muzzled by his senior aide, Fr. Bryan Hehir.  To his credit, the Cardinal is talking out about how we should vote against Question 2 (Physician Assisted Suicide).  Aside from that, we hear nothing else from His Eminence about the moral choices we face in the election.   Does he not care?


BCI Endorses Sean Bielat for Congress

October 23, 2012

This being the election season, BCI has decided we will make a few select political endorsements.  Sean Bielat for Congress is one of them.

Sean, 37, is an impressive candidate.  He is Catholic and attends St. Mary of the Assumption in Brookline. This writer has met him and came away from the conversation concluding that he was pro-life and faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church, including on social/moral issues like abortion and marriage.  (That said, on the campaign trail, Bielat largely keeps away from discussing issues like abortion and same-sex marriage). Beyond that, he is a smart, experienced guy with solid values and perspectives on government, vs the lightweight pro-choice candidate with the Kennedy last name he is running against, who, unfortunately, is favored to win.

We are going to give you some of Sean’s bio straight from his website:

Sean Bielat is a businessman, family man and serves in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. He currently runs www.OneClickPolitics.com, an online start-up. Prior to his 2010 campaign against Barney Frank, Sean led a $100 million defense robotics program at iRobot Corporation and was a management consultant at McKinsey & Company.

The son of a teacher and a veteran, Sean grew up in a middle class family and worked his way through college and graduate school with the help of the GI Bill, scholarships and student loans. Sean holds an MBA from Wharton and degrees from Harvard University and Georgetown University.

Sean and his wife, Hope, met in graduate school at Harvard and have been married for six years. They live in Norfolk with their toddler son, Theo, and infant daughter, Seraphina.

Sean is a member of the Knights of Columbus and the Council on Emerging National Security Affairs.

Click here to learn more about Sean’s views.

Sean’s Experience

Sean’s career highlights include—
  • Major in the U.S Marine Corps Reserve
  • CEO of www.OneClickPolitics.com
  • Program Manager, iRobot Corporation. Led $100 million, 100 person business line providing life-saving defense robots used to destroy roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan
  • Chairman, NATO Industrial Armaments Group. Led an international team studying the potential for use of advanced reconnaissance technology in urban warfare
  • Management Consultant, McKinsey & Company
  • Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps (active duty)

Now, let us compare his background vs his opponent, Joe Kennedy III.  Kennedy, 32, attended Stanford, then served in the Peace Corps from 2004-2006, developing marketing materials for Ecotourism in the Dominican Republic.  (As one person commented to BCI, “What happened to digging wells and teaching kids to read?”). Then it was off to Harvard Law School, where Elizabeth “Fauxcahontas” Warren was one of his profs.  He graduated from Harvard Law in 2009.  His only full-time job was as Assistant DA in Cape and Islands District Attorney’s Office from 2009 to 2011. He moved to the Middlesex County District Attorney’s office in September 2011, also as an assistant DA, but resigned four months later to run for Congress.  So, he only has about 2 years of work experience.  Meanwhile, at 31-years-old, he was still living with his mother in Cambridge.  To run for the seat vacated by Barney Frank, he apparently felt he should actually live in the district, so he finally moved out from Mommy’s house and got an apartment in Brookline–apparently with his fiance–just a couple of days before he announced he was running for the seat. He has had a W2 for two years of his entire life.  Oh by the way, Kennedy is pro-choice and supports gay marriage.  If he did not have Kennedy as his last name and was just any other lawyer who worked for 2 years in the DA’s office and served in the Peace Corps for 2 years, would he even be on the ballot?

Before any readers come out and say that Sean Bielat is not “perfectly” pro-life or pro-traditional marriage, we will say that BCI has high standards in this area and we have verified his positions well enough that we think he is a solid, strong choice–and a far better all-round choice than Kennedy.  Sean needs all the support he can get to overcome the Kennedy juggernaut. Here is a link to his campaign website. Please support his campaign in whatever way you are able to.


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