What Will Catholics Focus on this November?
The selection of Paul Ryan as Romney’s running mate has created an interesting dilemma for Catholics. The Catholic Church, its various organizations, clergy, and laity have spent a great deal of time criticizing some key aspects of this year’s Presidential race. On one side we have the anti-Affordable, Care act/HHS ruling, anti-same-sex marriage, pro-life, “my religious freedom is being infringed upon” crowd—which becomes anti-Obama. On the other side we have the anti-Ryan budget crowd. How is this going to play out?
Much has been written by Catholic commentators on the need to respect their “conscience”…what does their conscience tell them on these complicated matters?
Let us say that we have Catholic person X. X believes that the HHS ruling should be repealed because he owns a small business and does not want to have to offer services for sterilization, contraception, and “morning after” pills. He also does not believe that homosexuals should be allowed to marry and is heavily pro-life. These issues are all very important to him. (I am not going to criticize those views in today’s post, but rather am just going to acknowledge that many people hold them).
Catholic person X also strongly believes in helping the poor. He has heard about and supports the “Nuns on the Bus” who have been travelling around the country criticizing Paul Ryan’s budget. He read about the letter from the Georgetown University faculty criticizing Ryan’s views prior to his speaking there—and agreed with it, that Ryan seems more Ayn Randian than Catholic in his views. He has heard that the Catholics Bishops criticized the Ryan budget and disagreed when Ryan pointed out that the Catholic Bishops were wrong and to not represent his views of Catholicism. He finds it distasteful to see a budget that seems to be very much against the good works that his Church does, and also seems to go against what he believes were some of Jesus’s most fundamental teachings.
What is Catholic person X going to do this November? I believe that this is an important question. Further the answer to this question could decide the election, if we accept that the Catholic voting block is as large and influential as it appears to be.
I realize that I (or anyone else) cannot predict how this will turn out. However, I would like to offer an opinion on how I feel it should play out.
The social justice issues that we see above are quite important to me, and I would hope that many of you feel the same way as well. However, they are a secondary concern to the financial well-being of our country and its citizens. By this, I simply mean that if we take a person who is going to lose some money because federal programs that help put food on the table are going to be reduced or cut and then assume that person is homosexual and in a relationship—which is more important food or marriage? I would argue food. I would argue health care. I would argue loans for education. I would argue that most of the things the Ryan budget aims to reduce or cut altogether are more important.
The social justice issues are not going to go away, we can live to fight for those causes another day—whether we support same-sex marriage, abortion, contraception, etc or even if we oppose those things. The final word on any of those topics will not come this November.
The fact that our country is in a financial mess, that only looks to get worse by 2020 with the numbers of people expected to start claiming things like social security and Medicare. This is a problem that needs to be dealt with soon. Ryan’s plan will have devastating effects on the less well-off and senior citizens of this country. In my opinion, the Obama plan has some pitfalls as well, such as not enough of a tax increase on those who can afford it to help pay for these basic and necessary services. Regardless of where you stand on these issues, this should be the focus of the upcoming election.
So Catholics, which are you going to choose? Are you going to vote for a social agenda dictated by Rome and Bishops that opposes a progressive social agenda? Is two people of the same-sex marrying, is contraception, is abortion more important to you than the national budget and helping our fellow citizens in need?
Aside: (I would argue that this stance would further exacerbate the health concerns of the poor (removing the HHS mandate for example), that would deny people of the same sex who love each other the same rights that heterosexual couples have, and could force rape victims to carry a child to term? (I don’t mean to be crass when I write that, but that is what is at stake with the social justice issues on the political menu).
The other option you have is to base your vote on the message that comes from Rome, the Bishops, and Jesus that we should do what we can to help the needy around us. The Catholic Church does do a great deal of charitable work and is quite opposed to the Ryan Budget. Make no mistake about it, if the Romney/Ryan ticket wins this election, the people who are most needy in our society will lose some services that help them to meet to their basic needs. You could argue it is the one thing that the Catholic Church and I agree on!
The Catholic Leadership has created quite a conundrum for its members. Are you going to base your vote on the social issues of the day or are you going to vote with the mission of Catholic charity on your mind? It is your choice, and it could not be more important.
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