Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Catholic Democrat – an Othodoxymoron

I live in a blue county in a red state. The local population is so strongly entrenched in the Democratic Party that county Republicans rarely field a slate. Our city and county officials are generally determined in the primary. We have some very qualified Republicans who would make great leaders, but they feel running for office would be an exercise in futility.

The County Democratic Chairman is a member of our Catholic parish. He is very active in the church as a Lector and Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. This is not unusual. Catholics have historically been Democrats. The only Catholic President was a Democrat, but much has changed since JFK was elected in 1960. Back then, nobody had heard of Roe v. Wade, or embryonic stem cell research, or legal same-sex marriage. Now, the Democratic Party, at least on the national level, stands in support of all these issues. How can an orthodox Catholic remain a member of today’s Democratic Party?

There was a time in my life I probably would have considered myself a Democrat. I actually voted for George McGovern the first time I was eligible to vote. I thought the Democratic Party cared more for the little guy. As I got a little older, I called myself an independent, disavowing allegiance to either party. I thought it was possible and even desirable to stay in the middle of the road.

I heard somebody say if you’re not a liberal when you’re twenty, you have no heart, and if you’re not a conservative when you’re forty, you have no brain. I guess, in my experience, it is true! Today, I immediately look for a candidate’s stand on abortion before I ever even consider lending my support. Being wrong on that one important issue speaks volumes about that candidate’s moral character, and if the moral character is lacking, so is the basic foundation necessary for making responsible God-centered decisions in other areas. As we approach another presidential election next year, all of the Democratic hopefuls are pro-choice. So much for caring for the little guy. Even the currently leading Republican thinks a woman should have the right to kill her unborn baby.

I realize that abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and same-sex marriage are not likely to come up at the town council meeting. One can certainly be a good Catholic and still serve the Democratic Party on the local level, but doing so has repercussions. The radical platform of the Democratic Party could not stand without support from the grass-roots level. Those Democrats who make policy on the national level have to be elected. When Catholics actively support the Democratic Party even locally, it adds legitimacy to the national stand on abortion rights and other positions diametrically opposed to Catholic teaching.

Even worse is the number of Democrats calling themselves Catholic. While a Catholic calling himself Democrat helps to mainstream Democratic policy, a prominent Democrat calling himself Catholic helps to undermine Church teaching. If Ted Kennedy can support abortion and still receive Holy Communion on Sunday, then it must be okay for me to do the same. Right? Many contemporary Catholics think that way.

Democrats may argue that the Republicans are no better. They support capital punishment and an unjust war. It’s a point well taken, but there is a difference. While the Church has taken a stronger stand against capital punishment in recent years, the Catechism does not rule it out. (CCC 2267) Regarding the war on terror, CCC 2265 says the following:

“Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.”

Contrast freeing the Iraqi people from the aggression of a ruthless dictator, or hunting down those who would perpetrate another 9-11 with piercing the skull of an unborn baby to make certain it is not pulled from the mother’s womb alive. Contrast defending innocent life with taking innocent life. The choice is clear. Today, the Democrat Party is being pulled even farther to the left by their radical base. The only remedy is a mass-defection of God-fearing Christians from party lines. Next year’s election will be hotly contested and critically important. The Christian right must be united as happened in 2004 to elect candidates with a strong moral character.

One obstacle to unification is the issue of illegal immigration. Christians are divided on what to do with Mexican immigrants who entered the country illegally. Some have been here working for a long time. Their children were born here and they are making a life for themselves.

I receive an unsolicited email almost daily from a group, purportedly Catholic, who calls for strict enforcement of immigration laws, including the deportation of those who entered illegally. The Republican Party would tend to take a similar stance while Democrats would be more sympathetic to their plight. In many cases, these Mexican immigrants have integrated themselves into the Christian communities, receiving assistance from religious organizations in adapting to life in the United States. They have beautiful families and perform difficult manual labor to support themselves in conditions that most of us would find intolerable. Should these people be treated as criminals or are they merely trespassers? Did our immigration laws even apply to them before they entered our country, and if not, is it fair to label them as criminals if they committed no crimes after crossing the border? Seems I heard somewhere we are to forgive those who trespass against us.

I raise these questions only in seeking common ground where strict conservatives and sympathetic people of faith can bond together. By re-electing George Bush in 2004, we were able to get two presumably conservative justices placed on the Supreme Court. Had a Democrat made those nominations, the chances of overturning Roe v. Wade any time in the near future would have diminished considerably. Allowing the immigration issue or the war in Iraq to shift our nation back to the left would be a major step backward in protecting human life.

The events of 9-11 have made us aware of the importance of knowing who is entering our country. Our borders must be protected, but we must also find a way to give new people opportunities to share in our bounty. Perhaps some sort of sponsorship could be allowed where employers having jobs to offer could arrange to accept immigrants with certain restrictions. I certainly don’t have all the answers. What I do know is this: If we want to preserve what remains of our moral backbone in this country, it is imperative that God-fearing Americans stand united in 2008.