Election 2020 a month away — an Open Letter


I have seen the statements of Catholic politicians and Catholic prelates over the past month stating clearly that Catholic voters cannot vote for a Democrat in the coming election.  I find such election meddling to be as troubling now as I did when several of the Catholic bishops, and especially Justin Rigali, then Archbishop of St. Louis, doing all but excommunicating John Kerry, a Catholic who was also a US Senator, while all but endorsing George W. Bush, a man who had lied us into a war in Iraq, an area we are still mired in. 

The ostensible reason for such a position was that Bush had voiced opposition to abortion, while the Democratic Party had supported, and continues to support, a woman’s rights over her own body.  But such support for the Republicans was not honest.  Such support was couched in terms of a “reverence for life.”  But the Republican Party, and certainly the post-Reagan Republican Party has no such reverence.  They are willing to use abortion as an issue to get your vote, and they may honestly be opposed to abortion, a premise I am not willing to accept, but perhaps you may accept them on this.  If they had a reverence for life, they would not have supported an unnecessary war in Iraq, which cost American and Iraqi lives (yes, Iraqi lives have value too).  They would not support undermining consumer protection laws which help to keep people safe and provide them with some guarantee that the food they eat is not tainted and the water they drink is not poison (just look at the mess in Flint, MI).  But they do support undermining and even bulldozing such protections, adopting a firmly radical Caveat Emptor position.  They would not support getting rid of the Affordable Care Act, and Medicare, and Medicaid and Social Security, but they are looking to get rid of those ways in which the most vulnerable are protected from the ravages of age and disease.  They would support a fair tax system that would call on the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share, and not let the burden fall on the middle class in this country.  They would support the abolition of capital punishment that is unfairly and even wrongly enforced against people (often people of color, and almost always people who are poor) who cannot afford decent legal representation.  They would support police reform so that the police return to their core function of helping people and making streets safe, but they do not – they are quite brazen in taking a position of the “police right or wrong” get their support.  Well, police who are in the wrong deserve to lose their job, and if they’ve violated the rights of citizens, to be prosecuted, just as priests who preyed on children deserved to be defrocked, prosecuted and kept away from children, because they violated their oaths and were a threat to the community they were to serve (I’m from Boston, so I take that betrayal very seriously). They are opposed to adequate funding for schools and public institutions that make life better, but are all for diverting money to charter schools or to privatizing the government so that those public institutions are undermined and fail. 

I see all sorts of signs as I walk, run, or drive about that proclaim “pro-life voters live her” or words to that effect.  I would claim to be a pro-life voter myself, but I do not believe that “life” ends at birth, and that the responsibility we all have for one another ends when the fetus becomes a baby born.  The gospels have plenty of stories where Jesus calls the Scribes and Pharisees out for their proud support for the letter of the law, while ignoring human need and suffering, for giving in to personal greed rather than generously giving to alleviate human need. 

And so, I won’t be voting for a Republican in this election, not a single one.  From the history I’ve seen, the Republican Party has been the party of corporate greed from the late 19th c. onward.  They are not the party of Lincoln, but rather the party of McKinley, or Harding, or Coolidge, or Nixon or Bush or Trump.  They do not care for their fellow citizens, but only for their rich friends.  They are not a pro-life party, not even close.  And I suspect that many are not even really opposed to abortion – they just know it’s a winning position to take, which means they are hypocrites too. 

I cannot tell you how to vote, and I will not.  I do urge you, though, to consider the whole picture, and not to vote on a single issue, while letting distinctly anti-Christian and anti-Catholic attitudes to govern most policy decisions.  I urge you to pray and to consider your decision before you cast your vote, and that you be honest with yourself and your conscience.  And to those who say, but what about those priests and bishops who claim that voting for a Democrat is a sin, I would answer that priests and bishops do not have that authority.  Your vote is a sacred duty and one that should be discharged as such.  Only you and God can speak to what’s in your heart.  It is your conscience and your relation with God that’s at stake, not the particular view of any given priest or bishop. 

Remember to vote, but do so with love and justice in your heart. 

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