Vote Your Values
Below is the text of a letter to the editor I am submitting to the Catholic Chronicle, the diocesan newspaper for the Diocese of Toledo, in response to its story titled "Vote Your Values", which appeared on the front page of the November edition (see details here):
I am writing in response to the story "Vote Your Values", which appeared on the front page of the November edition of the Catholic Chronicle. I'll leave aside the propriety of the Chronicle running on its front page, just four days before the general election, a story covering a panel discussion that did little more than provide political cover for Catholics who wish to vote for politicians whose policy positions are not in line with Church teaching on such issues as abortion.
Instead, I would like to address the assertions made by Professor Richard Gaillardetz regarding those he labels "the Religious Right." According to Dr. Gaillardetz, the so-called Religious Right (which, I assume, includes many politically conservative Catholics) "tends to focus on a narrow spectrum of issues regarding family and sexuality" to the exclusion of "more fundamental and comprehensive commitments about the dignity of the human person." Says Dr. Gaillardetz, "But to just focus on family and sexuality is to miss absolutely crucial convictions that Catholics have about the alleviation of poverty, the importance of basic human needs being met, the fundamental right of participation in political processes."
I have two responses to Dr. Gaillardetz's line of argument. First, he creates a straw man by caricaturing politically conservative Catholics as caring only about abortion and homosexuality and having no concern for the poor and politically marginalized. It is a common method of "progressive" Catholics to tar those who disagree with them politically as caring for children only up until the point they are born, and then forgetting about them. That portrait is not only a false representation of their fellow Catholics, but it is an extremely uncharitable one. There is no one solution to the problems of poverty and political dispossession, and to dismiss as uncaring those Catholics who would address these issues with a different political solution is not worthy of Catholic discourse. Dr. Gaillardetz talks about having a "charitable dialogue befitting followers of Jesus" and eschewing the "politics of demonization". I suggest he start with his basic assumptions regarding those politically conservative Catholics with whom he disagrees.
My second response to Dr. Gaillardetz is to address head-on what he dismissively describes as the "narrow spectrum of issues regarding family and sexuality." Contrary to what groups like Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good would have us believe, there is indeed a hierarchy of issues that Catholics must consider in deciding how to vote. Not all matters of import to the Church are of equal weight. But don't take my word for it; instead, read the words of the Holy Father. In an address to European politicians on March 30, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI stated:As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable. Among these the following emerge clearly today:In other words, the Church is especially concerned with (and, indeed, deems non-negotiable) those things that Dr. Gaillardetz refers to as the so-called "narrow spectrum of issues regarding family and sexuality".
• Protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death;
• Recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family – as a union between a man and a woman based on marriage – and its defense from attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different forms of union which in reality harm it and contribute to its destabilization, obscuring its particular character and its irreplaceable social role;
• The protection of the rights of parents to educate their children.
James T. "Jay" Anderson
Norwalk St. Mary