Guest Opinion: Guidance for the Informed Catholic Voter and A Look at the Party PlatformsSeptember 6, 2012 No Comments
By Dr. Frederick Liewehr
RICHMOND, VA. (Catholic Online) – “The best defense of democracy is an informed electorate.” “Voting is the least arduous of a citizen’s duties. He has the prior and harder duty of making up his mind.” These quotations, attributed to Thomas Jefferson and Ralph Barton Perry respectively, imply that if we are to have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, then that people must do its share by becoming conversant with the issues, the candidates, and their platforms before every election. Only if the voters are informed – and truly understand the gravity of their responsibility to participate in the direction that their country takes – can we become a responsible people and nation.
In the 21st Century, like it or not, we face a government that now spends over 25% of our GDP, the highest at any time in history except for WWII. Additionally, Federal regulatory agencies are involved in all facets of life, so that you cannot even use a shower, the toilet, or now even a light bulb without feeling the weight of Federal control. When the government has become that pervasive, citizens must assume responsibility, while they still can, for its direction. Thus, it is imperative that voters understand what the candidates for office consider to be the role of government, and how they propose to bring that vision to reality.
During the 2008 Presidential election, we heard a lot about “change”, but few understood what exactly was going to be changed, or how. We were asked, with the so-called “health care” legislation, to approve a huge document with ramifications for one sixth of our economy without reading it; in the infamous words of Nancy Pelosi, “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it – away from the fog of the controversy.” This is hardly what Jefferson had in mind.
The Democratic Party Platform makes it very clear. “This election is not simply a choice between two candidates or two political parties, but between two fundamentally different paths for our country and our families.” That is an understatement, and highlights why it is so critical that we pay especially close attention to the parties’ platforms in this election.
There is no doubt that America has seen “change” over the past fifty years, particularly on the social front. “Conservatives”, usually Republicans, seek to minimize these changes, and generally think that the traditional interpretation of the Constitution, what it says, it means, is correct. “Progressives”, usually Democrats, believe in a “living Constitution” where what it says is up to a judge, a court, or even popular opinion to determine. These two groups have had increasingly divergent views on social issues, and the voter must decide on which side he or she resides, to stand up and be counted. This is not optional. Ayn Rand, though understandably controversial for many of her positions, correctly observed that man “has the power to choose, but no power to escape the necessity of choice.”
But how do we choose? Like the fruit in the Garden, so many things “seem” good. In what has been labeled the “culture war” the only guidance that matters comes from Christ’s Church. We have all seen what happens when secular humanism and the hope of creating heaven on earth collide with the realities of Original Sin and disobedience to God’s commands. The paramount rule for any citizen must be “Refuse the evil, and choose the good. [Isaiah 7:15]” No matter how appealing the proposal may be, the ends never justify the means. The most elementary form of this commandment regards the sanctity of life, without which nothing else we do can be sanctified. Again, God puts this very simply: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: Therefore choose life. [Deuteronomy 30:19]”
The easiest way the prospective voter has to evaluate the plans of the two parties and their candidates is to examine the party platforms. Obviously each candidate is an individual in hisor her own right, and cannot expect to support the party platform at all times and in all ways, but the platforms are constructed so as to convey at least in generalities how the candidates will govern. Additionally, the candidates are constrained by existing law, so, for example a Republican candidate may not feel they can say say that heor she will immediately put an end to abortion because it is already enshrined in law by the Supreme Court.
He can, however, indicate whether or not he supports reduction or expansion of that law within his powers. Naturally, you cannot expect someone who intends to, say, deprive you of your civil liberties to tell you that is his intention. You must read the “code language” and consider his previous record, and realize that he may simply not mention it if he considers it too problematical for too many people. Better to let them find out after the election.
With that in mind, I would encourage you to read the entire platform of each party before you vote. The Republican Platform can be found here and the Democratic Party Platform can be found here Consider carefully what the party has done in the past and what it says it will do in the future. You should also read the US catholic Bishops’ “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship“ the EWTN guide and Catholic Answers’ “Voters Guide for Serious Catholics”
In the Catholic Answers’ guide are listed five non-negotiable, intrinsically evil actions that must never be promoted by the law. Regrettably some are already enshrined in law in this country, so these must be reversed and countered, not supported, by any prospective candidate. To that end, I will briefly digest the statements contained in the two platforms concerning those actions to help you begin your research. In a few places I have added explanatory comments. You may research other issues, such as religious freedom, for yourselves.
Democrat Party Platform: “. in his first month in office, President Obama overturned the’global gag rule’, a ban on federal funds to foreign family planning organizations that provided information about, counseling on, or offered abortions. And that is why the administration has supported lifesaving family planning health information and services.” (The “health information and services” are generally provided by Planned Parenthood). “The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay.”
Republican Party Platform: “We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or fund organizations which perform or advocate it and will not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life.”
Democratic Party Platform: Not mentioned
Republican Party Platform: “We oppose the non-consensual withholding or withdrawal of care or treatment, including food and water, from people with disabilities, including newborns, as well as the elderly and infirm, just as we oppose active and passive euthanasia and assisted suicide. ” “Republican leadership has led the effort to prohibit the barbaric practice of partial-birth abortion.” “We urge Congress to strengthen the Born Alive Infant Protection Act by enacting appropriate civil and criminal penalties on healthcare providers who fail to provide treatment and care to an infant who survives an abortion.” “We call for legislation to ban sex-selective abortions. and to protect from abortion unborn children who are capable of feeling pain” .
3. Embryonic stem cell research
Democratic Party Platform: “Further, the President issued an executive order repealing the restrictions on embryonic stem cell research.”
Republican Party Platform: “We call for a ban on the use of body parts from aborted fetuses for research. We support and applaud adult stem cell research to develop lifesaving therapies, and we oppose the killing of embryos for their stem cells. We oppose federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.”
4. Human cloning
Democratic Party Platform: Not mentioned
Republican Party Platform: “We urge a ban on human cloning and on the creation of or experimentation on human embryos.”
5. Homosexual practice and homosexual “marriage”
Democratic Party Platform: “This administration hosted the first-ever White House Conference on Bullying Prevention and we must continue our work to prevent vicious bullying of young people and support LGBT youth.” (Many see “prevention of bullying” as code words for promoting homosexual practice among young people) ” Democrats support evidence-based and age-appropriate sex education.” “The President’s record . ending ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’.” . “The Administration has said that the word ‘family’ in immigration includes LGBT relationships.” “Recognizing that gay rights are human rights. the State Department is funding a program that finances gay rights organizations to combat discrimination, violence, and other abuses.” “We support marriage equality and support the movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples.”
Republican Party Platform: “A serious threat to our country’s constitutional order, perhaps even more dangerous than presidential malfeasance, is an activist judiciary, in which some judges usurp the powers reserved to other branches of government. A blatant example has been the court-ordered redefinition of marriage in several States. That is why Congressional Republicans took the lead in enacting the Defense of Marriage Act, affirming the right of States and the federal government not to recognize same-sex relationships licensed in other jurisdictions.
The current Administration’s open defiance of this constitutional principle-in its handling of immigration cases, in federal personnel benefits, in allowing a “same-sex marriage” at a military base, and in refusing to defend DOMA (The Defense of Marriage Act) in the courts-makes a mockery of the President’s inaugural oath.” “We reaffirm our support for a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” “With a Republican Administration, the (Justice) Department will fulfill its responsibility to defend all federal laws in court, including the Defense of Marriage Act.” “We support the First Amendment right of freedom of association of the Boy Scouts of America and other service organizations whose values are under assault and condemn the State blacklisting of religious groups which decline to arrange adoptions by same-sex couples.” ” The effectiveness of our foreign aid has been limited by the cultural agenda of the current Administration, attempting to impose on foreign countries, especially the peoples of Africa, legalized abortion and the homosexual rights agenda.”
6. Contraception (addition to the original list)
Democratic Party Platform: “As a result of our efforts, today. People with private insurance are getting . FDA-approved contraception with no out-of-pocket costs.” “And that’s why the Affordable Care Act is ending health insurance discrimination against women, and provides women with free access to . contraception.”" The Affordable Care Act ensures that
women have access to contraception in their health insurance plans.”
Republican Party Platform: “We oppose school-based clinics that provide referrals, counseling, and related services for abortion and contraception.” “The most offensive instance of this war on religion has been the current Administration’s attempt to compel faith-related institutions, as well as believing individuals, to contravene their deeply held religious, moral, or ethical beliefs regarding health services, traditional marriage, or abortion.”
So there you have it. As the Bishops say, “Catholic teaching challenges voters and candidates, citizens and elected officials, to consider the moral and ethical dimensions of public policy issues.” As Bishop Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin, reminded us recently, “A Catholic conscience can never take exception to the prohibition of actions which are intrinsically evil.” Never has the choice been clearer than in this election. Please consider the platforms prayerfully, and vote as your conscience, “the voice of God resounding in your heart”, directs you.
Dr. Frederick Liewehr is an endodontist who teaches and works in private practice. He converted from Protestantism to Catholicism in 1983, having been drawn ineluctably to Christ’s Church by the light of Truth. He is a member of St. Benedict parish in Richmond, a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus and a Cooperator of Opus Dei.
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