The Voting Booth is not the Confessional

Tomorrow, America is faced with perhaps the most pivotal, political decision of the 21st century. With the economic recession’s all-encompassing effects, with fuel having reached paralyzing proportions during the summer months, and major companies declaring bankruptcy from airlines like Frontier, banks like Washington Mutual, and Wall Street giants like Merrill-Lynch, it seems that no one is immune.
How an Obama-Biden administration or a McCain-Palin White House might affect the future U.S. foreign and economic policy, and with it, shape the face of the globe, should be a grave question plaguing the mind of every American. And of course, voting being our access to the system and our means of affecting change, hopefully all those of voting age and registered have given it thoughtful consideration.
This question should plague American Catholics no less than any other citizens because of the many possible ramifications. However, much like in 2004, there are groups that try to reduce the issues to the exclusion of all but life, namely to end abortion.
In 2004, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops reaffirmed their five “non-negotiable” issues, one being abortion, and another of course being gay marriage. While the USCCB has since issued a new voter guide where “non-negotiable” issues are noticeably not present, many individual bishops still tout single-issue voting agendas.
As Senator John Kerry was both a self-proclaimed Catholic and choice supporter, the backlash he experienced from the institutional Church hierarchy was a factor of import in the election. The issue divided Catholics, almost down the middle, with 53% approximately in favor of George W. Bush, and 47% in favor of Senator Kerry.
Now, the economic tides have turned, the candidate faces are different, and the single-issue agenda has once again reared its head in the wake of a real national crisis. One such example would be
On the homepage of the aforementioned website is a clip that presents our choices of candidates, and brief bytes of issues, such as the price of fuel at the pump, and an unborn fetus. During the clip of the fetus, the subtitles state, “Some issues are more important…” Then shifts to the gas stations and continues, “…than others.”
In summation, the website clearly directs Catholics to vote for “life” and “family”. However, the single-issue agenda is flawed, as voting in favor of just one issue does not mean supporting life as a whole. After all, capital punishment (to be used in the rarest of circumstances, according to the Vatican) is often overlooked. And the conflict in Iraq has resulted in the deaths of not only American soldiers and Iraqi insurgents, but also many innocent civilians. Another issue brushed aside by the single-issue, so-called “life” supporters.
If life and family are really the paramount values espoused by, they are contradicted by an outright ignorance of issues that directly affect both. Domestic policy concerning education, healthcare, and the economy will influence lives and families greatly. The next administration will have an impact for positive or for negative in this arena.
Whether there is work, food, medicine, and knowledge, will affect the very survival of the American people, and the family. An economic recession has a greater propensity to destroy a family than gay marriage. A recession will affect if the mortgage has been foreclosed, if there is a college fund, if there is food on the table, if there is a choice between utilities or rent. These choices have physically deep impacts on families… And gay marriage does the same how?
If the value of life from conception to natural death is really the moral, then the concern needs to go from beyond just the womb and the obsession with Roe vs. Wade. The concern needs to continue on how to support the families of those newborn children… How to educate them, feed them, clothe them, shelter them, and care for them factors into the vote for life.
No statement from Barack Obama or John McCain has indicated that either will appoint judges to the Supreme Court that will outright overturn Roe vs. Wade. It would therefore appear, that abortion will remain legal one way or the other. But how either of these gentlemen will affect life in other ways should be an issue of salience to all Catholics, and all Americans.
The clip, while well made, exhorts that Catholics vote their conscience, while clearly steering Catholics down a very narrow path… not necessarily down the path of one’s own God-given conscience.
Life should be given the highest consideration when Catholics vote. But Catholics must ensure that they are looking at the whole picture, and are comprehensively supporting life from conception to natural death. And that has to do with a lot more than Roe vs. Wade. The voting booth is a place where a Catholic should vote his or her own conscience, not a confessional where they must vote their guilt.

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About Dick Dalton

Dick is a third generation native of Phoenix, Arizona, and has a BA in political science and a BA in French from Arizona State University. He currently pursues a Global MBA program in marketing at Thunderbird School of Global Management. -- While very local, he does manage to get around, having visited 23 countries spanning four continents. Some of his interests include travel, foreign language, social justice, culture, religion, politics, and writing, of course!

6 thoughts on “The Voting Booth is not the Confessional

  1. “Life is the most important issue this election season, nothing (not taxes, not economy, not the debate over the justness of the Iraq War, etc.) can outweigh the value of an innocent human soul.”

  2. I did read it, it’s sad that you seem to have closed your mind to the teaching of the church and resorted to using the same old arguments that have been debunked several times over. How is it you know that those that don’t vote as you do are single issue voters? or do you just want to name call?

  3. This was my concern as well that regardless of the candidate, I did not think either would do anything about abortion. I thought it would waste my vote to vote for a pro life candidate who I didnt think would do anything about abortion, especially when it would have been a single issue vote for me. I think we have to realize that no candidate is going to fit all of our values. Its not such an easy decision to make-and I believe we have to look at one’s intent and plans or lack thereof.

    The risk is that I could be wrong. The risk is that someone has plans I didn’t expect; we miss out if someone had positive plans and was not elected. What I find ironic is that the republican party supports less government involvement, except when it comes to abortion, war and the death penalty. How are we to weed through this!??

  4. Many would agree life is the most important issue and that nothing can outweigh the value of an innocent human soul…but innocent human souls die from poverty and neglect. They die daily in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are beaten and abused because of a lack of protection under the law. They are executed unjustly by the state (and yes, it has happened). They die from a lack of access to medicine and basic sanitation. Life issues extend beyond just abortion, euthanasia, and stem-cell research.

    And Teresa, while I appreciate your comments, to say that someone has closed their mind to the teaching of the Church is a form of name-calling. Simply because someone doesn’t agree with the Church does not mean that they are closed to the Church’s teaching or that they are disregarding it. Discernment doesn’t always lead people to the same place, and the history of the Church shows that. Dogma changes. Teachings change. And Catholics can, in good and well-formed conscience, vote their conscience.

  5. Becky – I have thought of that, for whatever reason people feel that those of us in the anti-abortion movement have not, but we have and those issues need to be addressed, however I can’t address the quality of someones life until they are born. I don’t know how we as a country can claim moral authority when we kill 3000-4000 innocent babies a day via abortion. BTW you mention that Dogma changes, can you site an example?

    Lauren – I disagree that neither candidate will do nothing about abortion, our President-elect has promised that the first thing he would do as President would be to sign the freedom of choice act, this act will undo every state law regarding abortion, if passed this would reverse all parental consent laws, ultrasound viewing laws, and anything else related to abortion. The Mexico City policy will also be reversed almost immediately, we as a country will soon be exporting abortion, I shudder to think of how other countries will see us now. I’m not a Republican, but to address your final point, I would think that the ultimate big government intrusion would be to decide which human lives are to be protected and which are not, so at least as far as abortion goes I think its consistent.

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