This blog started out as a companion piece to my book, Musings from the Christian Left (excerpts of which can be found in the July 2004 link) and to support a planned radio show. Now, its simply a long term writing project from a Christian Left Libertarian perspective (meaning I often argue for liberty within the (Catholic) Church, rather than liberty because the church takes care of a conservative view of morality.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Virginia Catholic Conference on Election 2010 - a Response

The Virginia Catholic Conference issued an electoral letter, which can be found in the Arlington Catholic Herald at

Many of the questions posed and issues raised are important, although some of these issues should have been raised earlier in the election cycle - when questions could be asked of the candidates. It is a bit too late in the home stretch.

Sadly, many of the issue raised are not electoral at all. Indeed, they reside in the judicial realm, not the political. Candidates who say the right things in this regard are pandering to Catholics rather than promising to do anything for our agenda.

An example of such a question is educational choice. In Virginia, the Byrd Amendment is part of the Commonwealth's Constitution. While the legislature may move forward to repeal the amendment, the best strategy is to challenge it in Federal Court on equal protection grounds. While this will take some time and will eventually lead to a fight with the teachers union about funding Catholic Schools, dealing with the constitutional issue must still be the first act of the play. The second act may be to promise access to the unions in our Catholic School system if public money is available - thus turning a potential adversary into a friend. Indeed, it is scandalous and a bit heretical for the Church not to be taking such a tack, since historically it has been friendly to the Union movement. Indeed, the teaching Magisterium of the Church as embodied in the recent encyclical Caritas in Veritate is still pro-labor.

Relying on equal protection for some things mean we must respect it in other things. This includes the question of marriage. The current venue for this debate is in the Federal Courts and the battle is all but over. Some in the Church have criticized the decision in Perry v. Schwarzenegger as saying that morality has no place in law. This is not actually what was said. What was said is that moral bias has no basis in law. A natural law case can be made for marriage equality, given that marriage is the instrument for both forming new family units and leaving the family unit of birth. Scripture specifies that when one is married, one leaves their family and clings to their chosen spouse. This was true in Genesis and is echoed by our Lord in the Gospel. While family remains the central feature of how society is organized, the rights to form a family must be available to all - none must be bound forever to their family of origin. Fecundity is not the issue here. Canon Law specifies that it is not a requirement for marriage in the Catholic Church. Indeed, priestly sanction is not ultimately required, as the couple marries eachother, with the priest acting as witness. This is as true for gay marriage as it is for heterosexual marriage.

Questions of life are most important, as the Bishops state - however if all candidates are publicly pro-choice, one must go deeper into their platforms on this issue. If their economic policies do not include an option for the poor, as is required in Catholic teaching, then the balanced must be tipped toward those candidates who do. In this election, this would disqualify any who adhere to the Promise to America from receiving Catholic support.

The question of the legality of abortion is mostly outside the realm of electoral politics, having been decided at the Supreme Court level. While federal legislation is certainly possible to extend the protection of law to the unborn, appeals to overturn Roe v. Wade judicially are not electoral in nature. The responsiblity for proposing such legislation lies with the proponents of life, however such legislation has not been forthcoming and likely will not be, since it would require compromise on the issue of when life begins in order to deal with the realities of equal protection under law. Abortion can no longer be outlawed as a medical procedure - it can only be outlawed to the extent that the unborn individual is recognized under law and given the full protection of criminal law. To date, the prospect of putting mothers who obtain abortions in jail has prevented such action, as well it should. Additionally, the prospect of the police power being extended to investigating every miscarriage shocks the conscience - however not doing so can only be accomplished to limiting legal protection to the second trimester - essentially turning a blind eye to 3,600 abortions a day.

The other complication is malpractice. Generally, when a patient dies, a malpractice suit is possible. Putting the unborn into the realm of legal personhood put the medical care of all first trimester children at risk, since it is likely that they will not been seen until the possiblity of miscarriage has passed. If the law makes excpetions in either the area of police investigation or miscarriage, it has created such a loophole as to be ineffective, which law cannot be. If compromise is made, however, the vast majority of the pro-life base will reject it. The onus is on the pro-life movement to deal with these exceptions, not with publicly pro-choice politicians. Until there is a bill, there is no issue - electoral or otherwise.

Questions of intrinsic evil are often not in the legislative realm at all. For example, laws against adultery, an intrinsic evil as well, are not enforced and have been repealed in most places. This should be kept in mind when considering how to vote on moral issues.


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