The Catholic Left Makes a Sneaky Case for Voting Hillary

By John Zmirak Published on May 21, 2016

Earlier this week, Jason Jones called out Democrat activist Robert Christian for trying to muddle the pro-life movement, by claiming that every issue from climate change to “empowering women and girls” was just as much a “life issue” as Democrat stalwart Cecile Richards’ thriving business in baby parts. Christian is a busy guy, because he has just published another article sowing confusion — this time among Catholic voters.

In a recent piece at the religion news site Crux, Christian mourns the fact that 2016 could have been “the most Catholic presidential election ever,” but that this chance has been lost because of the way the nominating contest shook out. Then he goes on to suggest that both parties’ presumptive nominees, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, are equally unacceptable according to Catholic principles.

It is true, and frankly uplifting for those of us who are Catholics, to note that so many plausible contenders for the GOP nomination were practicing Roman Catholics: Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, and Rick Santorum. More importantly, each of those candidates supported the 2,000-year Christian teaching that unborn children deserve the protection of law — though some admitted as politically unavoidable some legal exceptions which the Church rejects. Still, it is clear that each of these candidates wished to expand as much as possible the protection of law to unborn Americans. There wasn’t a single pro-choice, “personally opposed” nominal Catholic in the Republican race; the Joe Bidens, Martin O’Malleys, and Nancy Pelosis of this world — Catholics who are banned by Canon Law from receiving Holy Communion — know that their rightful place is across the aisle, in the Party of Death.

Much more important is the fact that the pro-life issue has moved from a niche out on the fringes — where it lurked as of 1973 — to the vital center of one of the country’s two major political parties. And the Catholic Church deserves much of the credit, as Evangelical leaders have graciously conceded: In 1973, the Southern Baptist Convention offered support to Roe v. Wade, while the Catholic bishops and thousands of dogged laymen stood almost alone in opposing it.

But now all that has changed: Evangelical Christians do much of the heavy lifting in the pro-life movement, and provide some of its most effective leaders. What is more, Protestant candidates were some of the most consistently principled pro-lifers in the race: Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina took strong, courageous positions that would do most cardinals proud. The pro-life movement is the single greatest force for, and triumph of, real ecumenism in America.

I would go further and say that the principles of classical Catholic social teaching have become mainstream in America. The small-government, decentralist impulse of the Tea Party movement brings its actual policies and programs much closer than any other political faction to what the Church actually teaches about “subsidiarity” — the need for the State to keep its distance, and the federal government to be the last resort in solving any social problem that can be handled by an entity closer to the problem.

The recent Supreme Court decision sparing the Little Sisters of the Poor from the obligation to pay for abortion pills only highlights how crucial subsidiarity is: Tea Party activists, and politicians like Sen. Cruz had already warned us that giving control over health care for every American to the unelected bureaucrats of secular central government was a threat to our liberties. The Catholic bishops — too many of whom tacitly supported Obamacare — learned the hard way that the Tea Party was right, when the program they had favored was immediately used as a wedge to separate the Sisters from their basic religious liberties. On political principles and their prudent application, I concluded that Ted Cruz was running the most Catholic campaign for president, which is why I joined a long list of Catholics who endorsed him.

It is contemptible for citizens to vote for a candidate based on tribal identification — instead of his programs and policies, which should reflect the truths that God wrote on the human heart, which any rational person could grasp through honest argument. That’s a lesson which Kennedy voters in Massachusetts over the decades should have learned long ago. Nor can we overlook the fact that a candidate favors a basic, intrinsic evil, simply because we agree with him on lesser, prudential issues. If both candidates favor intrinsically evil policies, we need to make a grim, realistic assessment of whether either one deserves our support — and sometimes we must pull the lever to vote for the lesser evil.

How Clinton and Trump Stack Up on the “Evil” Question

But in his column Robert Christian squirts a thick cloud of ink around the question of which positions held by Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump qualify as “intrinsically evil.” He does this in service of the detailed leftist agenda that he has elsewhere laid out as a “pure” pro-life program — which really amounts to a wish-list for bigger, even global government, with federal programs to wipe every runny nose in America, and protection for unborn children somehow shoehorned in as well.

First let’s examine what Christian says about Donald Trump — whose character, statements, and policies I have critiqued consistently throughout the GOP race. Let’s go through Christian’s key assertions one at a time:

Trump’s demonization of Muslims, Mexicans, and others has fostered and empowered bigotry that the Church considers both intrinsically and gravely evil.

You don’t need to be a fan of Trump’s crude but effective rhetorical style to realize that this charge misses the mark. What Trump actually said about violent crimes committed by illegal immigrants is true. Our government has a terrible track record both of enforcing its democratically enacted, just immigration laws, and of deporting violent felons. Our borders are out of control, and in many places are de facto managed by human traffickers linked to violent narco-terrorists — the criminal organizations that have created the heartwrenching murder epidemic in Mexican cities such as Juarez.

If pointing out the truth “foster[s] and empower[s] bigotry,” well that is a shame. Perhaps if more politicians and even bishops were willing to face such ugly truths, they could raise the level of discussion. Decades of denial by elites of both political parties have left these issues to angry activists — just as the recklessness of multiculturalist oligarchs in the European Union on the threat posed by intolerant Islam have handed the immigration issue in those countries to outraged nationalists. Someone has got to point out that the emperor has no clothes, and it won’t always be the most nuanced, polished person in the crowd. But truth will out.

The Catholic Church officially teaches that countries have the right to control their borders and refuse newcomers who do not “respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them … obey its laws and … assist in carrying civic burdens.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2241). Nothing Trump has said conflicts with that.

 [M]any pro-lifers doubt [Trump’s] sincerity on the issue and are troubled by his inconsistent commitment to life outside the womb.

I have previously raised doubts about Mr. Trump’s commitment to overturning Roe v. Wade, and he deserves continued scrutiny. Pro-lifers must keep up the pressure on Trump to act on this crucial moral issue, by appointing principled constitutionalist conservatives to the U.S. Supreme Court and cutting all funding to Planned Parenthood. I am reassured by the fact that Trump has released a list of sound judges from whom he promises to select any federal court appointments, but we should keep up the pressure so this doesn’t become an empty promise.

[Trump’s] economic plans would exacerbate the economic injustice denounced by the pope.

Since Robert Christian offers no specifics or even arguments for this assertion, it is impossible to evaluate it. In any case, promoting policies that conflict with one pope’s personal views on how to fix an economy is not a moral evil. The pope gets no special guidance from God on the details of economics, as popes from Leo XIII to John Paul II have insisted over and over. So this point is moot.

Now, there are more genuine criticisms to be made of  Trump, which Robert Christian skips. Conservative Christians should keep up pressure on Trump to disavow the use of torture (“worse than waterboarding” in Trump’s words), and attacks on the family members of terrorists. Those practices are intrinsically evil, and if he is elected we must use the power of Congress, and federal courts, to prevent him from keeping such evil promises. But neither of them rises remotely to the gravity and scale of Hillary Clinton’s promise to keep legal the murder of a million unborn Americans every year — and the sale of their tiny body parts for profit.

In his treatment of Hillary Clinton, Robert Christian is no more principled or convincing. He admits what can’t be denied — that she is a pro-abortion extremist. He offers a few other criticisms which are vaguely worded and half-hearted:

Hillary Clinton is seen by many as a politician’s politician at a time when the system is proudly dysfunctional and in need of reform. Her incrementalist approach seems inadequate for overturning the throwaway culture.

I have no idea what those sentences mean, and neither does Mr. Christian.

His next critique of Clinton is simultaneously worthless — and priceless:

Her position on the death penalty not only breaks with trends in Catholic teaching; for many, it seems to reveal a lack of sincerity and authenticity on Clinton’s part, a willingness to abandon principles to maximize electoral prospects.

Someone should make a campy Broadway musical comedy entitled Trends in Catholic Teaching. We Catholics are not bound by trends. Trendy teachings are precisely what has pulverized orthodox faith around the world. We are bound instead by the timeless teachings of the natural law, which the Church has recognized and affirmed, which apply always and everywhere, to believers and non-believers alike. The Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Church over 20 centuries have taught that under certain conditions, the death penalty is moral, and no one — not even a pope — has the power to teach otherwise. Hillary here actually affirms the orthodox Christian position, if only by crass accident.

Robert Christian speaks dismissively, in a faux objective tone, of “single-issue voters [who] may hope against hope that Trump will deliver them the Supreme Court justices they desire to overturn Roe v. Wade.” But he shows what he really thinks with the following sentences, which pile high the items on his private leftist wish-list, in the hope of outweighing Clinton’s rank support for abortion on demand for any reason through all nine months of pregnancy:

Others will set aside any problems with Hillary Clinton and vote for the candidate who is clearly more competent and whose positions they believe more closely reflects Church teaching on many issues, including: economic justice, climate change, reforming the political system, healthcare, immigration reform, paid leave, voting rights, and human rights.

If Mr. Christian wishes to endorse Hillary Clinton for president, I wish he had the simple courage to say so.

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