Catholic to My Toes

Twelve years ago, dismayed at all the misunderstandings and hatefulness I was seeing among Catholics over the Presidential election, I decided to write a column about it for the East Tennessee Catholic.  I thought I could dispel those misunderstandings and the hatefulness would cease.

Boy, was I wrong, wrong, wrong.

I was on bed rest (Lorelei was born just after Election Day) when the reactions to that well-intentioned column started coming in, but if I hadn’t been I might have taken to my bed anyway.  And if I had seen where we we’d find ourselves twelve years down the road, I might have never gotten up again.

Already today I’ve received tweets hashtagged hypocrite, babykiller, and cafeteriaCatholic.  It’s just another day in an election season during which I’ve been unfriended by an actual family member, deemed excommunicated by the friend of a friend, and attacked in a public Facebook post by someone I thought was a friend, all because I shared political articles that they didn’t agree with.

Rarely do I say anything about what my friends post on their own Facebook walls–with the rare exception being to offer a Snopes link to correct a blatant untruth.  I have never unfriended someone because I disagreed with their views. I welcome respectful discussion and try to learn from others and to at least understand why they believe what they do.

I’m a bad Catholic, of course.  I fall short on an hourly basis.  But I’m NOT a cafeteria Catholic.  Ask anyone who knows me and pore over every word I’ve written and try to find an example of any time I have EVER dissented from Church teaching.  You’ll need more than good luck and a magnifying glass because you won’t find anything.

The friend who attacked me on Facebook accused me of being a “Democrat down to my toes.”  I’ll write more about party affiliation another time, perhaps, but what I am down to my toes is CATHOLIC.  That’s my core, that’s my worldview, and EVERYTHING I believe and the way I try to live my life–including my political life–springs from that.

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See Planned Parenthood Top Doctor Talk Fetal Tissue Harvest over Lunch

The video below is not for the faint of heart–although it contains no graphic images. But there’s something stomach-turning in watching a doctor discuss the harvesting of fetal body parts over lunch as she takes bites of her salad and sips her red wine.

I couldn’t help thinking about this scene from The Return of the King showing Denethor, Steward of Gondor, munching away as his son goes to fight to his (almost) death at this father’s command.

I’ve always been horrified by that scene but this is REAL LIFE, y’all.  Dr. Deborah Nucatola is Planned Parenthood’s Senior Director of Medical Services, and she was caught on tape thanks to an undercover investigation by this organization.

If any of my pro-choice friends are still reading, what do you think about this? If you are a Planned Parenthood fan, does the possibility of their profiting by the donation of fetal tissue affect your opinion? What do you think of “doctors” who would change the way they practice medicine in order to procure the tissue that is most in demand?

If you don’t want to watch the whole thing, here are some choice excerpts:
So then you’re just kind of cognizant of where you put your graspers, you try to intentionally go above and below the thorax, so that, you know, we’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m going to basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.

[A] lot of people want intact hearts these days, they’re looking for specific nodes. AV nodes, yesterday I was like wow, I didn’t even know, good for them. Yesterday was the first time she said people wanted lungs. And then, like I said, always as many intact livers as possible.

And with the calvarium, in general, some people will actually try to change the presentation so that it’s not vertex . . .. So I mean there are certainly steps that can be taken . . . Under ultrasound guidance, they can just change the presentation . . . So the preparation would be exactly the same, it’s just the order of the removal of the products is different.

I don’t have the stomach to read or watch any more, but if you wish to, the links are available here.

UPDATE: America Magazine has published a balanced review of the unedited footage from which the above video came, which I would encourage you to read.  My own outrage is less over the question of the sale of the parts than over the successful dehumanization of the unborn evidenced by the doctor’s demeanor.

UPDATE 2:  While standing by my observations on the dehumanization of the unborn depicted in the video above, I am providing a link into the investigations into the allegations, many of which are complete and did not find any irregularities.  Thank you to Molly McMahon Martin for pointing this out and providing the citation.

Brave New World: Gender Selection

I haven’t tackled a topic like this in a while.  But, y’all, I can’t write about pretty graveyards and fall hikes all the time.

Today I read this story  about an Australian woman who traveled to the United States to undergo in vitro fertilization and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to achieve her desired goal:  a baby girl.  “The process involves harvesting a woman’s eggs, injecting each one individually with sperm, then growing the embryo from a single cell to around 130 cells, at which point it’s possible to tell whether the chromosomes are XX or XY. Only embryos of the desired sex are transferred to the uterus.”

Here’s just one example of a facility in our country that provides this service.  From their website: “While the desire to choose whether a baby would be a boy or a girl has been present throughout human existence, it is only recently that the technology to do so has become clinically possible and available. With improvements in gender selection technology, demand for gender selection has also been growing steadily.”

There’s that slippery slope that I’m always being told is a logical fallacy! It goes on to say, “Sometimes gender selection can be “non-medical” or “elective.” In such cases, a child of a specific gender is desired without obvious medical indications. The most frequent indication for such gender selection is “family balancing,” when one gender is already represented in the family unit and the other gender is desired.”

Which makes me say, WHY IS THIS LEGAL AND WHAT ON EARTH IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?

Y’all, please understand, after three boys in a row I was very much hoping #5 would be a girl.  I also was hoping #4 would be a girl!  Instead we got William, and unlike the lady from Down Under, I did not “[sob] with disappointment to discover I was having a second son … and then a third.”

Anyway, I understand the DESIRE for a daughter.  But most of us just suck it up and appreciate the children we have.  Maybe we accept that God knows what He is doing and set about parenting the kids we were lucky enough to get.  Maybe we realize we should be grateful for conceiving in the first place and for producing a healthy baby of any gender.  Remember when our mothers were having kids, and there was no way to know in advance what they were having, what they said when people asked if they wanted a boy or a girl? “I don’t care what it is as long as it’s healthy.”  I haven’t heard that in a long time; have you?

Five Kids
I know that, to a childless woman struggling with infertility, I might seem ungrateful because I already have three healthy sons. But unless you’ve experienced “gender disappointment”, you can’t understand how crippling it can be. My desire for a daughter caused me to spiral into depression and left me virtually housebound. Every time I went out, toddlers in pink seemed to taunt me.”

If “gender disappointment” was so “crippling” to her, what she needed was not a daughter; it was therapy and lots of it.  She doesn’t just SEEM ungrateful, she IS ungrateful.  One can only imagine what her sons will think of all this when they come across this article online in the future–if they don’t already sense her feelings toward them now.

And what about that little girl, who has a lot of expectations heaped upon her already?  My Facebook post on this topic has generated some indignant comments.  One person said, “I hope the little girl likes karate instead of ballet!”  Well, you know, since ALL KIDS tend to do the unexpected, and since they are, you know, INDIVIDUALS, that’s just as likely as not.  There’s no one kind of “girl” and no one kind of “boy,” which is why I always find these stories about “gender balance” so ridiculous, and why I always think it’s funny when people think one boy and one girl is the ideal complete family.  My three boys are NOTHING alike.  My girls are not much alike either, and their gender is only one part of what makes them unique and special.

There is so much about this story that is disgusting.  The fact that she paid $50,000 for this procedure.  That could have been used to send one of her boys to college.  Or to fund the adoption of a daughter. The fact that this is a for-profit venture in the first place. From an article in Slate:

“Just over a decade ago, some doctors saw the potential profits that could be made. . . They coined the phrase “family balancing” to make sex selection more palatable. They marketed their clinics by giving away free promotional DVDs and setting up slick websites.  These fertility doctors have turned a procedure originally designed to prevent genetic diseases into a luxury purchase akin to plastic surgery. Gender selection now rakes in revenues of at least $100 million every year. The average cost of a gender selection procedure at high-profile clinics is about $18,000, and an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 procedures are performed every year. Fertility doctors foresee an explosion in sex-selection procedures on the horizon, as couples become accustomed to the idea that they can pay to beget children of the gender they prefer.”
Then there is the immorality of the procedure itself.  What happened to all those little boy embryos, after all?  They were discarded.  Her own children, and she threw them away BECAUSE THEY WERE BOYS.  And where is all this headed?  Do you really believe that selecting for other desired qualities won’t be a thing in the future?  From the Slate article: “In 2009, [Dr.]Steinberg came under a worldwide media firestorm when he announced on his website that couples could also choose their baby’s eye and hair color, in addition to gender. He revoked the offer after receiving a letter from the Vatican.” Thank God for the Vatican, is all I can say.
Says the happy mother/satisfied client:  “It’s not about playing God, it’s about giving women reproductive freedom.”  Um, no.  It IS about playing God. And it’s wrong, wrong, wrong.

Get Out There And VOTE!

vote here 2Tomorrow is Election Day!  If you are like most people you either 1) already voted early or 2) aren’t planning to vote at all.  Yes, that’s right, not even half of the people who are eligible bother to vote in midterm elections.
Not me, y’all.  I’ll be voting tomorrow, and, remembering fondly my own childhood, I’ll be bringing Lorelei along so that she can push the buttons.
Lorelei patriotic
I always feel a little excited on Election Day.  Midterm elections aren’t as exciting as Presidential elections, of course, but here in Tennessee we have some pretty important matters on the ballot.
Amendment One has certainly gotten the most press.  I’ll leave it to you to Google the exact wording if you are interested, but a yes vote on this amendment will give the legislature authority to enact laws restricting abortions and regulating clinics that perform them.  It’s been met by predictable hysteria from the pro-choice folks, many of whom have probably fallen for deceptive advertising, but I promise you this amendment will NOT ban abortions; it doesn’t overturn Roe v. Wade; and not even the most pro-life legislator is going to attempt to ban abortions in the case of rape, incest, or to save the mother’s life.  I will be voting YES for this amendment.
Amendment Two has gotten a lot less attention, as it’s about judges, a topic that doesn’t tend to inflame the electorate.  I’m voting NO on this one, going on the recommendation of my husband, who is an attorney and knows more about this than I do. (For the record, John and I frequently come down on opposite sides of political questions, but if I haven’t had time to do my own research I will just ask him to tell me who I would want to vote for–not who HE is voting for, mind you, but who he thinks I would want to vote for based on my beliefs–and he tells me.)
Amendment Three wants to make it part of the constitution that there never be an income tax in Tennessee.  I find that silly.  I don’t particularly want to pay more taxes, but I’d be delighted to swap the sales tax on food for an income tax–I think we’d come out ahead.  Anyway, there’s no need to amend the constitution over it, so I vote NO.
Amendment Four has to do with lotteries.  I was and remain against the lottery, but we have it now and I doubt it’s ever going away.  This one is about whether to allow veteran’s groups to raise money in this way as other non-profits already can do.  That’s another YES.
We also get to vote on selling wine in the grocery store.  Who’s going to say no to that?
See below for more information and get out tomorrow and vote your beliefs–and if you stay home,  don’t complain after the fact!
[voterinfotool]

Thinking outside the Box: Ten Pro-Life Groups That May Surprise You

So I kind of went on a tear on Facebook the other day.   I flipped out just a little bit.  Here’s what I said:  “When certain people assume that “women” all believe the same things and support the same issues I get really, really irritated. It’s patronizing and ANTI-FEMINIST to act like all women think the same way and have the same opinions.”

What brought this on?  The sanctifying of the latest liberal media darling, Wendy Davis.  As Kirsten Powers stated, I don’t stand with Wendy Davis.  She does not speak for me, nor does she speak for a majority of women, and I am tired of reading articles that assert that women as a group embrace all of the same interests and convictions.

Kirsten Powers cites a recent National Journal poll in which 50% of women FAVORED a ban on abortions after 20 weeks.  According to Nate Silver, more women than men support such a ban!  Even 33% of Democrats support it–a sizable minority that Democratic leadership would do well to note.

Seventeen of my friends liked my Facebook status–several of them liberal women, I am pleased to report–indicating that I’m not the only one who doesn’t like being told what I think or what I should think.

I didn’t stop with the Facebook status, though.  Since clearly there is a lot of misinformation out there about who is against abortion (hint:  it’s not exclusively old white Republican men) I started posting information about surprising (that is, if you are close-minded and like to put people in boxes according to categories) groups that oppose abortion.  And I would like to share some of those groups with you.

1.  Feminists for Life:  “Women deserve better than abortion.

2.  Democrats for Life:  “We believe in the fundamental worth, dignity, and equality of all people.  We believe that the protection of human life is the foundation of human right  authentic freedom, and good government.

3.  National Black Pro-life Coalition:  “The National Black ProLife Coalition is a network of prolife and pro-family organizations committed to restoring a culture that celebrates Life and Family cultivating Hope in the black community.

4.  Pro-life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians:  “To challenge the notion of abortion as acceptable, to bear witness to the Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Trangendered (GLBT) community that abortion rights and GLBT rights are not one and the same, and to work towards those alternatives that are life-affirming as well as pro-woman.

5.  Atheistic and Agnostic Pro-lifers:  “… because life is all there is and all that matters, and abortion destroys the life of an innocent human being.

6.  New Wave Feminists:  “New Wave Feminists are here to take feminism back from those who have corrupted it.  Sometime before we were born our womanhood was traded in for a handful of birth control pills, the “privilege” to pose for playboy, and the “right” to abort our children so we could work a desk job.  We embrace the early American feminism of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, which was righteous, virtuous, intelligent and moral.

7.  Secular Pro-life:  “If you are pro-life because abortion violates the Constitutional right to life, science shows that human life begins at conception, abortion hurts women, or for any other non-religious reason: make yourself at home! Here you will meet like-minded atheists, theists, and agnostics who are eager to save lives and fight the media portrayal of pro-lifers as “religious extremists.”

8.  Libertarians for Life:   “Libertarianism’s basic principle is that each of us has the obligation not to aggress against (violate the rights of) anyone else — for any reason (personal, social, or political), however worthy.  That is a clearly pro-life principle.  Recognizing that, and seeing the abortion-choice drift within the libertarian movement, Libertarians for Life was founded in 1976 to show why abortion is a wrong under justice,  not a right.”

9. Students for Life:  “Our mission:  abolish abortion in our lifetime.”

10.  Pro-life Pagans:  “If the Life of a single tree, flower, or frog, is to be respected then why not our own? If fertility is sacred and to be celebrated in 3 festivals a year then why would we commit the opposite of life and fertility?

I’ll stop with ten, because it’s a nice round number.  I’m sure I’d find more, if I looked.

UPDATE: I didn’t exactly look, but I’ve stumbled across a few more I’m going to add to the list.

11.  Pro-life Liberals:  “We support the right to life and quality of life both before and after birth.”

12.  The New Pro-Life Movement:  “The mission of the The New Pro-Life Movement (NPLM) is to reexamine what it means to be pro-life in the 21st century.”

13.  The Jewish Pro-Life Foundation: “We seek to save Jewish lives by promoting alternatives to abortion in the Jewish community.

If you are pro-choice, I hope you will stop and think the next time you assume that all women agree with you, or should agree with you just because of their gender.  If you are a conventionally conservative religious pro-lifer, I hope you will find some new allies in this list and realize that it’s just as bad for YOU to assume that no one could possibly be [fill in the blank] and be against abortion.

prolife kids

Not This Woman’s Issue

If you’re on Facebook you can’t escape knowing that today’s the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.  If you have a diverse group of Facebook friends like I do you’ll have seen a bewildering array of contradictory posts, some commemorating the day as a tragedy, others as a triumph.

Well, I’m assuming by now you know how I view this anniversary.  And I’m here to speak for the women, who, like me, don’t think the unlimited right to abortion is something to celebrate, and who are tired of hearing that “reproductive rights” is the number one women’s issue.

For want of a better way to describe myself, I’ll say I am a pro-life Democrat.  I’m intelligent and well-educated, neither a religious fanatic nor a “right wing nut-job.”  And I don’t call abortion a women’s issue–I call it a civil rights issue.  Which means that it should be of concern to EVERYONE, not just women.

It’s a constant source of amazement (and distress) to me that people who agree with me about almost EVERYTHING else–attachment parenting, gun control, social programs, all that “bleeding heart liberal” stuff–part ways when it comes to protecting the unborn, the most helpless and voiceless of all.

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Talking to Kids about Politics


I just saw a tweet from an online acquaintance who was upset because her little kindergartner came home with the news that her classmates had told her that “Obama kills babies.”

Now that is all kinds of wrong for all kinds of reasons.  Number one, it’s factually inaccurate and intellectually lazy:  Mr. Obama supports legal abortion; he does not kill anyone.  Number two, no five year old needs to know anything about abortion or baby-killing of ANY kind.  Let’s preserve their innocence as long as we can.

And then there is number three, the subject of this post:  no five-year-old came up with that language independently.  Someone they trusted and respected, most likely a parent, TOLD them that.  Which means that their parents have introduced inaccurate, inflammatory information into their innocent intellects in the interest of indoctrination.  And that’s not how I believe we need to be talking to kids about politics.

I don’t believe in indoctrinating children. (Some of you are probably laughing because you know I am raising my kids Catholic and certainly that implies indoctrination–but moral and religious indoctrination is another story and we can argue about that another time!)  What I like to do is to present kids with a variety of ideas, answer their questions, see what they come up with, and correct any misinformation.

So when the subject of the death penalty, or abortion, or any other controversial issue has come up, I’ve explained it to my kids in the most neutral way I can.  Then I wait for their reaction.  Most recently it has been William, age 11, learning about these things. “But that’s ridiculous,” he said of the death penalty. “That’s horrible.  That doesn’t make any sense.  You can’t DO that.”  Even when I agree with his reaction, I offer him some of the reasons that other people disagree.  I don’t want parrots.  I want thoughtful critical thinkers.

My kids are–at least I think they are–extraordinarily lucky to have been raised in a home where 1) the adults don’t always agree about politics, and 2) the adults love to discuss politics.  John majored in International Politics at Georgetown and is passionately interested and well-informed.  I love nothing more than analytical conversations and arguments.  But there has never been any danger that my kids are going to go off to school and parrot their parents’ opinions, because we don’t walk in lockstep here.  We encourage them to come up with and defend their own opinions.  And now that three of the kids are more or less grown up, they don’t always agree with either of us.  We’ve got one kid identifying as Republican (not a Romney fan, though) and two who lean Democrat (of the pro-life type) but refuse to identify with any party.

Then there are the little ones.  Several weeks ago William announced that he did not like Mitt Romney because “he doesn’t care about poor people.”  I assure you, he did not hear that around here.  We just don’t make over the top statements like that and we call our kids on them when they do make them, so that I told him I was sure Mr. Romney cared about poor people but that different candidates have different ideas about how to help them.  I felt it was only right for balance to tell him some of President Obama’s drawbacks as well.  William learned about abortion only a few months ago, even though he has been participating in Marches for Life since he sat in a stroller.  He’s an oblivious sort and I was happy not to have to explain it to him.  So when I told him that President Obama was pro-choice, he decided he could not support either candidate.

Out of uniform patriotic attire for voting day at school

Lorelei does not know what abortion is and I have no intention of telling her any time soon.  Seven is too young–too young, really, to understand most political issues.  But she did sit and watch part of the debates with us until she fell asleep, and she was excited to cast a vote today in the mock election at school–for President Obama.  “Why?” I asked her.  “I just like him,” she said.  “Well, that’s fine.  It’s your choice,” I told her.  She looked so dejected coming out of school today, where predictably Mr. Romney carried the day with over 80% of the vote.  She perked up, though, when she got to come help me vote after school.


I read an article earlier today suggesting that we shouldn’t share our political views with our children at all until they are old enough to understand them. I don’t agree.  I believe we can share in an age-appropriate way.  When Lorelei asked me how I decided on my vote, I was vague:  “There are things I don’t like about either candidate, that make me feel I cannot support either one.”  I remember many years ago a friend of mine commented that she was surprised that we talked about politics with our kids.  Politics are important.  If we don’t talk to our kids about them, if all we do is say things like: “We are Democrats in this house,” or “Obama kills babies,” we are raising people who do not know how to think for themselves.

Remember, the kids who parrot you now will grow up to parrot some idiot, if you haven’t taught them to think critically.  If it’s important for you for your kids to think like you do, then educate them.  Tell them WHY (if you know) you think the way you do.  For us, having kids who think like us isn’t the goal.  The goal is having kids who THINK.

The $64,000 Question – Answered

So, feeling like you do about both Romney and Obama, who ARE you going to vote for?

That’s more or less what I was asked by a friend recently, and I promised I would be answering here.  There’s going to be a long and complicated explanation before I get to the answer, though, so get comfortable. 🙂

I get the feeling that my liberal friends expect I’m going to go with Romney for “pro-life reasons.”  Meanwhile my conservative Catholic friends seem convinced that I am an Obama supporter and am headed straight to hell.  Gosh, it’s so inconvenient of me to get all complicated and refuse to hop into one of the little boxes we all like to put each other in.

If I were going to self-identify as a member of a political party, I’d call myself a Democrat.  I’m more or less a bleeding heart liberal, if you want to know the truth.  When I take that “who should you vote for” survey that’s been making the rounds this political season, I’m told I should vote for the Green Party candidate, that I agree with about 95% of her positions.  Of course, as Sister Louise would have said, there’s always that 5%.  And what a 5% it is.

I like President Obama.  I think he’s a good man with good intentions.  Pretty much everything the haters say about him isn’t true.  In my opinion he’s been quite effective–it’s just that his detractors don’t approve of his achievements.  Like Obamacare, which I’m excited about, even though I’d prefer a completely government-run system like the ones in Europe. (There.  I said it.)

HOWEVER.  Obviously, if you know me or have read pretty much anything I’ve written including the title of this blog, you know that abortion is a huge issue for me.  And apparently it’s become a huge issue for our President as well, an issue on which he has come down firmly and stridently on the wrong side.  That was why I did not vote for him last time.  Even though I liked him more then than I do now, honestly, I just could not bring myself to push the button and thereby tacitly approve of his radically pro-choice position (and yes, I do believe he is more radical in this area than many other pro-choice politicians).

Now, I don’t think it is any way wrong or sinful to cast a vote for a pro-choice politician (if that is not your REASON for voting for him) in the presence of other proportionate reasons for your vote.  I don’t rule out ever voting for a pro-choice candidate in the future.  What is a proportionate reason is open to one’s prudential judgment, reached by informing one’s conscience about Church teachings, studying the issues, and ideally praying over the decision.  But there are other reasons that I won’t be voting for President Obama.

Frankly, his HHS mandate INFURIATED me, and a lot of other “progressive” Catholics.  So many stood with him on his health care plan BECAUSE of their Catholic faith, and then he basically spit on them.  I know that a lot of you will just think I secretly hate women and don’t want them to get birth control but this is seriously a religious freedom issue, whether you believe it or not.  Still, I don’t think in the end the mandate will pass constitutional muster, so it may not matter on a practical level, but it speaks to a part of the President’s character that I do not admire.

It’s the same part of his character, I believe, which has led him to quietly allow torture to continue; and to expand on his power to spy on, to imprison, to even execute Americans without trial or explanation.  And I’m not going to wear myself out providing the links for all this.  I’ve read and posted many over the past several weeks and can’t get anyone to even discuss them with me.  Republicans like this side of Obama and don’t want to draw attention to it, and Democrats don’t like it and don’t want to draw attention to it.  But someone needs to.  Ditto the drone warfare, which I knew nothing about until recently.  Part of what makes me call myself a Democrat is that we are supposed to be against these kinds of things.

So now let’s talk about Mr. Romney.  I said before that I didn’t think Romney believes in anything but Romney, and after watching three debates and following this race pretty closely, that opinion has not changed.  I just can’t think of any good reason to vote for him.  I have absolutely NO CONFIDENCE that he will make any meaningful changes in abortion policy.  I sincerely hope I am wrong, but let’s remember that his sister, his wife, and most recently a campaign surrogate have all more or less gone on the record saying he won’t make any changes and that this is just not a big issue for him.  Yes, I know what he says himself, but he says all kinds of things all the time, half of which contradict each other–he will say anything to win.  You can say–and I have actually read some comments from prominent pro-life sources that try to assert this–that his wishy-washy comments are just to get votes and he’ll hop on board the pro-life train as soon as he’s elected.  But how do I know that?  And don’t we want a president who is unapologetically pro-life no matter what, if that’s the only reason he’s getting our vote in the first place?  Let’s not forget, too, that Mr. Romney used to be one of those “pro-life for myself, pro-choice for others” politicians, and he has a great story to back up his reasons for his stance–the botched illegal abortion that killed a young relative of his.  I haven’t heard him mention her lately, have you?  Wouldn’t you like to know what changed his mind?

Like I said, I’m basically a Democrat at heart, so a Republican is going to have to provide something extra to make me want to vote for him.  Mr. Romney’s stance on abortion does not convince me.  And I know he says he will repeal the HHS mandate, but I don’t know if I believe it.  Plus as I’ve said I think it’s a moot point anyway, not to mention that his repealing of it is tied to his repealing of Obamacare, which doesn’t exactly appeal to this uninsured American who will be spending more hard-earned money this month on medication than I can afford.  Oh, and that’s hard-earned but UNTAXED money because we are part of that lowly 47% who just won’t ever take responsibility for our own lives.  I suppose Mr. Romney would like us to just not claim our five dependents and reject Mr. Bush’s tax credits so that we can pay income tax in addition to the self-employment tax which we DO have to pay.

In 2008, I did not vote for President.  I went to the polls and voted in the local races, but I just skipped that part.

This year, that doesn’t feel quite right. I’ve read that not voting at all is cowardly or lazy.  I know I am not lazy and I hope I am not a coward.  But I read another article this year that said that in voting for a candidate you are effectually agreeing with their stances, that you are complicit in what they do.  And I just can’t bring myself to do that.  Maybe it would be different if I lived in a swing state.  But Mitt Romney takes Tennessee no matter what I do tomorrow.  That gives my vote a sort of purity–it’s just between me and my conscience.

I could pick a third party candidate, like the Libertarian, who is against the drone wars and the eroding of our freedoms, or the Green Party candidate with whom I appear to largely agree, but unfortunately my areas of disagreement with both of them are in significant areas.  So here is what I have decided to do.

I am going to write in “None of the Above.”  I want the record to reflect that this pro-life Democrat could not find a candidate that she could in good conscience vote for.  For me, that is the most honest vote, after tons of study of both secular and religious documents, much discussion and debate, and plenty of prayerful reflection.

I hope that you will respect my decision, as I plan to respect yours.

UPDATE:  In 2016, my conclusions are different, and I will be explaining them in a future post.

What’s a Catholic Voter to Do Part Two

This is Part 2 of a story which begins here.  It chronicles the unforeseen results of my having had the temerity to publish a column on voting in the local Catholic press just before the 2004 elections.

I felt good about what I had written.   I thought I had expressed myself well.  I sat back and naively expected peace and goodwill to ensue.

That isn’t what happened.

I was working in my kitchen one morning when the phone rang.  This was way before iPhones so the identity of the caller came as a complete shock.  It was the Chancellor of my Diocese calling to tell me that the Bishop!! wanted me to know that he could not support everything I had written.

I am not going to try to recount that whole conversation.  It was eight long years ago after all.  But some parts I remember quite clearly.  As I stood in my pantry staring at the shelves, the Chancellor told me that Pope John Paul’s condemnation of the Iraq war was merely his “prudential judgment.”  He said that the Pope had not declared it an infallible, ex cathedra teaching.   I think he might have been a bit surprised that I was able to fire back the names of the TWO (yes, only two) such pronouncements on which all theologians agree.

U.S. President George W. Bush greets Pope John Paul II during their meeting at the Vatican June 4, 2004. http://www.tribuneindia.com/2004/20040606/wd1.jpg

What I remember very clearly is the impression I was left with–that I had just been ARGUED with by a Church official about whether there might be a “Catholic” way to vote in the coming election.  And I remember wondering, if it all comes down to prudential judgment, shouldn’t I, as a Catholic, give more weight to the judgment of the Holy Father than to that of any elected secular official?

Before it got better, it got a lot worse.  Shortly thereafter I got another call.  This time it was the Bishop himself on the other end of the line!  I got the sense that he knew the first call hadn’t gone well and that he felt bad about it.  His call had more of a pastoral tone. I  honestly cannot remember WHAT he said, but I could tell he wanted me to feel better about the whole thing.  I recall that he stated that he would be publishing something himself later to clarify the issues involved.

In those days my husband was an active Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus, and I saw the Bishop frequently at KOC events.  He had always been friendly and kind and complimentary about my column in the past.  So I felt bad.  Very bad.
See, I consider myself to be orthodox, more so than most people I know.  I take the teachings of the Church very seriously.  I am not a “cafeteria Catholic.”  And before I wrote that column I made sure to read the relevant parts of the Catechism and the Gospel of Life and the document the Bishops put out every election year.  I had my husband read it over too.  I wanted to make ABSOLUTELY sure that it reflected Church teaching.

To have someone in the hierarchy suggest differently was DEEPLY painful. (I am sorry for all the capital letters.  It’s how I am feeling as I write this.)  It’s still painful.  I don’t feel completely comfortable publishing this, and probably would not if either of the people involved were still in the Diocese of Knoxville.

Was I wrong?  And if I was wrong, was I going to have to believe that the Church could back certain voting choices?  If so, would I have to follow those directions to remain a faithful Catholic?  Or was I going to have to become a dissenter in order to follow my own conscience?

I didn’t like any of those options.  I was in spiritual agony.  I was also about eight months pregnant.  Not a good combination.

I went back and reread what I had written.  I read the documents again.  I still couldn’t find anything wrong with what I had said.  Nor could other people I trusted.  Could this mean that it was the “prudential judgments” of the Bishop and the Chancellor that were  in error?  That was a scary thought.

In the end, though, that’s what I’ve come to believe.  I stand today by what I wrote eight years ago.

But there’s more to the story.  Stay tuned.

What’s a Catholic Voter to Do?

This is an edited version of a column I wrote in the fall of 2004.  At the time I was extremely disturbed by the vitriol surrounding the Presidential campaign, particularly that directed by Catholics toward other Catholics, presuming to assert that there was only one way for a good Catholic to vote.  I did not remember people being so hateful about politics in the past.  (Of course, things are much worse today, with Catholics routinely being assured by their brethren that they are headed straight to hell if they vote for a  pro-choice candidate.)  So I wrote this in the hopes of calming folks down a little bit, at least folks who read the East Tennessee Catholic.  

The first time I was eligible to vote for President, when I was 21, I was away at college and did not get my absentee ballot in time.  My parents and grandparents were all Democrats, and therefore so was I:  no decision-making would have been necessary.

I was similarly complacent the first time I was able to cast a vote, although in the opposite direction, for George H.W. Bush.  He was against abortion, the most horrible evil in the world.  How could other issues matter?

Four years later other issues seemed more important than I had thought.  In the most recent elections choosing a candidate has become agony.  I am unwilling to equate “pro-life” with anti-abortion, so I see no “pro-life” candidate.  Anyone who wages pre-emptive wars that kill up to 20,000 innocent civilians is not pro-life.  John Kerry’s assertion that life begins at conception while he blithely votes to give women unlimited power to end it doesn’t sit well with me either.  What’s a Catholic voter to do?

Thoughtful Catholics will come down on both sides, and if they have informed and followed their consciences, they are not sinning.  But no candidate is in line with all of the Church’s moral teachings.

Although the Church gives us guidance in this matter, it does not endorse candidates.  Many of you read Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s statement that when a Catholic does not share a candidate’s pro-choice stance but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered “remote material cooperation” [in evil] which is “permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.”  The cardinal [later Pope Benedict] does not define the proportionate reasons, leaving us to define them ourselves.

The U.S  bishops published Faithful Citizenship:  A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility, which states:  “The 2004 elections . . . pose significant challenges for our Church . . . the Church cannot be a chaplain for any one party or cheerleader for any candidate.  Our cause in the protection of the weak and vulnerable and defense of human life and dignity . . . As Catholics [we are called] to recommit ourselves to carry the values of the Gospel and Church teaching into the public square . . . Faithful citizenship calls us to seek ‘a place at the table’ of life for all God’s children in the elections of 2004 and beyond . . . A political commitment to a single isolated aspect of the Church’s social doctrine does not exhaust one’s responsibility towards the common good.

Finally, our Holy Father [Saint Pope John Paul the Great] quoted the following statement of the Second Vatican Council in The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae), a must-read for anyone who dares consider himself an authority on life issues:  “Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, or willful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where people are treated as mere instruments of gain rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others like them are infamies indeed. They poison human society, and they do more harm to those who practise them than to those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are a supreme dishonour to the Creator.”

The Pope adds: “The underlying causes of attacks on life have to be eliminated, especially by ensuring proper support for families and motherhood. A family policy must be the basis and driving force of all social policies. For this reason there need to be set in place social and political initiatives capable of guaranteeing conditions of true freedom of choice in matters of parenthood. It is also necessary to rethink labour, urban, residential and social service policies so as to harmonize working schedules with time available for the family, so that it becomes effectively possible to take care of children and the elderly.”

With the help of these experts, I have the following reflections to offer.  One way to choose your candidate is to decide which issues are crucial to you and vote for the candidate who shares your perspective.  If you judge abortion the ultimate issue, you could vote for the candidate who opposes it.

Or you might vote based upon the amount of change you expect the candidate to be able to effect in various areas of importance.  For example, if you voted for President Bush because he was pro-life the last time around, look at his record:  how many lives has he saved?  How much power does the President have to effect change in this area?  Some voted for Bush in 2000 so he could choose Supreme Court justices to overturn Roe v. Wade.  But he has yet to appoint a single justice.  And who can guarantee his choices would vote against abortion?  Look at the records of Sandra Day O’Connor and David Souter, both appointed by conservatives.

What can a President affect in the way of life issues?  He can start a war, a war our Holy Father opposed.  And what about other life issues the pope enumerates in The Gospel of Life?  Some “conservative” social policies may lead to more abortions, when women choose abortion because of a lack of money, homes, or childcare.

There are many voter guides available online to further help you in the discernment process.  Because the Church doesn’t tell us for whom to vote, we must inform our consciences before making this important choice.

Have you fully informed yourself on the Church’s position on all life issues by reading The Gospel of Life?  Have you prayerfully considered the the teachings of our bishops?  Have you acquainted yourselves with the positions and records of both candidates?  If so, your conscience has been properly formed, and you have nothing with which to reproach yourself.  And if in charity you assume that your fellow Catholics who may have chosen a different candidate have done the same, you have nothing with which to reproach them either.

My column did not have the effect I had hoped or expected.  More on that in my next post.
Part II
Part III