The National Catholic Review

In 2004, the organization “Catholic Answers” distributed voting guides in many parishes. They highlighted five “non-negotiable” items for voters to consider: abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem call research, human cloning and gay marriage. If you needed to find five wedge issues, designed to divide the American people, that would be the list. Alas, dividing the nation seems not to be a “non-negotiable” item for the good people at Catholic Answers. Despite that fact, the guide was widely distributed. Archbishop Ray Burke ordered it distributed throughout his diocese even though other dioceses specifically forbid it being distributed at churches.

 

Despite the designation of their guide as one “for serious Catholics” the evident bias of Catholic Answers fails the test of seriousness. If you don’t have health care on your list, you are not serious about the challenges facing America. What is more, if you don’t have health care on your list, you don’t understand what is required to prevent abortions. You can put four more Scalia’s on the Court, but as long as poor women have unplanned pregnancies and no health insurance, they will be seeking abortions, legal or otherwise.

 

In 2008, the group Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good have put out a very different voter guide. They list 10 key issues: Dignity of work, economy, environment, education, foreign policy, health care, immigration, Iraq war, life, and poverty. For each issue, they highlight some key positions held by both Sen. McCain and Sen. Obama.

 

There is no negative condemnation of either candidate. And, unlike most such guides, this one is very specific, noting that McCain authored legislation that requires HUD to give abandoned housing units to community organizations and that Obama co-sponsored the Climate Stewardship Act of 2007. It notes their differences on the right to life as well as on the right or workers to organize. It also records that they both voted to build a fence along the Mexican border.

 

Most importantly, the voter guide directs you to the group’s website for more information. The problem with all voting guides is that they simplify the most important issues. It is hard to analyze who has a better plan to lower the federal debt in three short sentences, yet unless the debt is lowered, the government will not have the resources to fund Social Security, achieve universal health insurance, maintain our armed forces, etc.

Campaigns turn on little mistakes, but a candidate can get away with big lies about big issues like the federal budget because the complexity is too great for our sound-bite driven culture.

 

The Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good is the kind of organization the nation needs. After years of letting James Dobson and Jerry Falwell speak for Christendom, it is nice to discover a saner and more balanced voice. The group’s voice is beginning to be heard within the Beltway’s cacophony. Archbishop Burke may even hear it from his new perch in Rome.

 

Michael Sean Winters

 

Comments

Anonymous | 7/29/2008 - 1:04pm
Thanks to the Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good! I have a bumper strip which says I am a member of the Religious Left! All it means is that Falwell and Dobson don't speak for me!
Anonymous | 7/29/2008 - 12:53pm
Perhaps I am wrong, but I have viewed the two lists in conjunction and not as being mutually exclusive. The five "non-negotiable" issues are necessary, but not sufficient. I do not see how one could disagree with the positions articulated in the "Answers" list, but I also do not see how one could believe that those five issues are the only ones that are important. The Alliance list, on the other hand, to the extent that articulates a broader level of concern is valuable, but if it implies that the issues on the Answers list are somehow "negotiable" it also fails to capture the true role of Catholics in the public forum. Both list, taken together, provide a true guide to Catholic voters.
Anonymous | 8/18/2008 - 9:44am
''If you needed to find five wedge issues, designed to divide the American people, that would be the list. Alas, dividing the nation seems not to be a “non-negotiable” item for the good people at Catholic Answers.'' I like how Mr. Winters paints Catholic Answers as the one dividing the nation rather than the specific issues the voter guide addresses. Rather than argue against the substance of the voter guide, he attacks releasing the voter guide as the heinous act. What Mr. Winters fails to realize is that America is ALREADY divided over these issues. In fact, these issues divide human beings from LIFE. What part of ''intrinsically evil'' does Mr. Winters not understand.
Anonymous | 7/31/2008 - 6:03pm
How about sticking with Faithful Citizenship? This year's guide by the USCCB is excellent. The challenge posed by the Catholic Answers guide in 2004 spurred the bishops to pay more attention to this quadrennial document. FC certainly identifies the issues about which our faith necessitates concern. Moreover, there is sound guidance on faithfully voting, making well-considered prudential judgments. While perhaps more balanced than the Catholic Answers guide, it seems to me to be the opposite side of the same coin
Anonymous | 7/30/2008 - 12:41am
If the materials of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good reflected the complexity surrounding Catholic issues they would be invaluable. After exploring their website I submit that it would be very difficult to distinguish their views from conventional progressive boilerplate having nothing to do with Catholicism. I wish their sense of seriousness would embrace a healthy skepticism about an apparently unquestioning belief that government acts for the common good (except when it regulates the dreaded “wedge” issues).
Anonymous | 7/30/2008 - 12:05am
So, Michael, when did you become pals with ''Ray Burke''? Seriously, not sure how to take what you said about him distributing the Catholic Answers list in his diocese while other bishops expressly forbid it. What's that supposed to mean? I presume for your readers that's the litmus test for a hard-right, ultra-conservative, non-thinking person's voting guide. Too bad you've never met the archbishop yourself. I'd think you'd see how wrong you are very quickly. The reason Catholic Answers lists the five non-negotiables is because they involve matters of absolute moral principles. ''You shall not kill'' isn't something on which you negotiate. No matter how you mash our language, abortion and euthanasia always kill innocent human lives, as do cloning and embryonic stem cell research. Homosexual ''marriage'' is wrong, plain and simple. Always has been, always will be. It's interesting that you take issue with these five issues because they ''divide the American people.'' Big deal. Politics is naturally about divisions, no matter the country. And not even Jesus came to unite: ''I have to come not to bring peace, but division.'' Nine issues out of the ten which Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good raises are, of course, important. But they’re not the most important issues. That belongs solely to the life issues. Those other nine are prudential issues, not moral absolutes. Good Catholics can disagree about how any government approaches any of them – including the Iraq War – and still be good Catholics. We cannot, however, say that abortion, euthanasia, ESCR, cloning and homosexual ''marriage'' are ever acceptable and still be good Catholics. Good Americans, maybe, but not good Catholics.
Anonymous | 7/29/2008 - 7:57pm
What a powerful time for John l4:12 "Greater works will you do (Wounded Warriors and their famlies) than I for I go to My Father" to become alive and well. Please please leave the exclusion of those who give their lives, both mentally and physically, for Freedom - leave such exclusion as a call to each one who reads this - Join our Veterans Chamber of Commerce - you don't have to be a Veteran just a family of a Veteran - especially the first members of our Veterans Chamber of Commerce - VETERANS INCARCERATED The War Widows Lakewood Colorado Veteransjustice@aol.com
Anonymous | 7/29/2008 - 4:29pm
Sounds like ''in all things compromise''. The problem with compromise is that you never end up with the truth, it is always something less, something lukewarm. Further you make a false assertion: you imply that because Archbishop Burke stands firmly against the issues of abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell destruction, SNCT/human cloning and homosexual marriage that he does not uphold Catholic teaching or understanding of Dignity of work, economy, environment, education, foreign policy, health care, immigration, Iraq war, life, and poverty. This could not be further from the truth; read what the Apostle has written. I'll stick with Archbishop Burke.
Anonymous | 7/29/2008 - 4:25pm
I think Mike Winters needs to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The teaching of the Church is rock solid and firmly opposed to all five of the non-negotiables in the Catholic Answers guide. If a ''Catholic'' chooses to support any of these 5 moral evils that the Church firmly opposes, then they surely aren't very serious about their faith.