George Weigel
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In 1960, millions of Catholics voted for John F. Kennedy for little reason other than that he was a Catholic. In 2004, millions of Catholics, myself included, will vote enthusiastically for George W. Bush because this Texas Methodist has a clearer understanding of, and a more serious commitment to, the Catholic vision of the free and virtuous society than his Catholic opponent. This is, to put it gently, a dramatic change. And it requires some explaining. Part of the explanation is that 1960 was the high-water mark of Catholic tribalism in American electoral politics; Catholics today are no longer a multiethnic tribe who vote their tribal loyalties (early and often, as they say in Chicago). Then there’s the unhappy fact that John Forbes Kerry’s personality is a lot more WASP-Brahmin than Last Hurrah. But these explanations touch only the surface of things. Millions of Catholics are going to vote for George W. Bushand millions of Catholics are, frankly, appalled at the thought of their fellow Catholic, John Kerry, as president of the United Statesbecause of two dramatic changes in ideas and institutions over the past four decades. Catholic social doctrine has changed; so has the Democratic Party. In those changes lie the deeper reasons for my vote for George Bush, and the votes of millions of other Catholics across the country.

The Maturation of Catholic Social Doctrine

In the politics of 1960, Catholic social doctrine meant little more than the church’s traditional support for trade unions: the George Meany/George Higgins axis, if you will. Catholic political intellectuals like Eugene McCarthy debated the meaning of the common good and subsidiarity, but these debates had little traction in public life. That has all changed, thanks to the Second Vatican Council and the social magisterium of Pope John Paul II.

The council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (1965) outlined a pluralistic vision of the free and virtuous society; John Paul II has filled in the outline with the encyclicals Laborem Exercens (1981), Centesimus Annus (1991) and Evangelium Vitae (1995). The church’s social doctrine now teaches that the free and virtuous society is a complex set of interactions among a democratic political community, a free economy and a public moral culture. The last, John Paul II insists, is the key to the rest. Democracy and the market are not machines that can run by themselves. If free politics and free economics are going to promote genuine human flourishing, the tremendous energies they set loose have to be tempered and directed by a vibrant public moral culture. The culture is the key to the entire edifice. A culture that teaches freedom-as-license is going to wreck democracy and the free economy, sooner or later. A culture capable of sustaining the high adventure of democracy over time is a culture that teaches and celebrates freedom for excellencefreedom as the way we choose the good as a matter of habit.

John Paul II has also developed the church’s social doctrine by teaching that abortion, euthanasia and the range of questions raised by the new biotechnologies are, in fact, social justice issues. Addressing the life issues is a crucial part of the church’s social doctrine. In Evangelium Vitae, which completes Centesimus Annus, the pope insisted that when grave moral evilswrongsare legally defined as rights, the entire democratic project is threatened. A democracy that arrogates to itself the power to declare entire classes of human beingsthe unborn, the radically handicapped, the elderlyoutside the boundaries of common concern and protection is a democracy at war with itself (a point Lincoln made a century and a half ago, in his 1858 House Divided speech).

Thus, in the developed Catholic view of things, not all issues are equal. Some issues must weigh more heavily on the conscience of a president, a legislator or a voter. Indeed, the life issues are of such gravity that opposition to the requirements of natural justice on these questions (which is also opposition to the church’s settled teaching) seriously damages a Catholic’s communion with the church.

I do not know whether George W. Bush or John Kerry has read Centesimus Annus and Evangelium Vitae; I rather doubt it. But President Bush gets the vision, and Senator Kerry is manifestly blind to it. The president has spoken eloquently about an America in which every child is protected in law and welcomed in lifean America in which a culture of life (a phrase Bush has borrowed unapologetically from Pope John Paul II) sustains legal protection for the unborn, the inconvenient elderly and the handicapped. Senator Kerry has voted time and again to permit infanticide, in the form of partial-birth abortion. And like certain fellow Catholics in the U.S. SenateJoseph Biden, Thomas Daschle, Richard Durbin, Patrick Leahy, Edward Kennedy, Barbara Mikulski and othersKerry has voted time and again to block the confirmation of Catholics who want to apply the elementary principles of justice (which, to repeat, coincide with the teaching of the church) to abortion jurisprudence in the federal courts.

Indeed, if there is anything that captures the truly bizarre nature of the second change that has led so many Catholics into the Bush camp, it was the sight of Catholic senators on the Judiciary Committee joining a scurrilous attack last year by New York’s Democratic Senator Charles Schumer on the Catholic views of a superbly qualified nominee for the federal bench, William Pryorall in the name of defending the non-negotiable abortion license.

The Transformation of the Democratic Party

Like many of my fellow-Catholic Bush voters, I was genetically a Democrat, having grown up in an environment where Catholic and Democrat were synonymous. Have we changed? Perhaps. But the party into which we were born, so to speak, has changed far more dramatically than we have. And that is why some of us have left it, while others regularly vote for Republicans.

In retrospect, the George McGovern revolution of 1972 was the first major fracture in the old Catholic-Democratic alliance. But the electoral debacle of 1972 did not teach the Democratic Party anything. Remember the old charge that the McGovern Democrats were the party of acid, amnesty and abortion? What was the most enduring of the three? It was the abortion license, a lethal infection that has thoroughly corrupted the moral fabric of the Democratic Party. The Democrats have become ever more intransigently the party of abortion-on-demand; it is inconceivable that any sort of pro-life candidate could be on a Democratic national ticket, and it is extraordinarily difficult for pro-lifers to become Democratic candidates for the Senate. The Democrats have also become the party whose judicial nominees want to create ersatz rights to euthanasia and gay marriage. The Democratic Party has become the party of freedom understood as personal willfulnessthe party of the imperial autonomous self. Which is to say, that the Democrats have become the party that rejects the teaching of Centesimus Annus and Evangelium Vitae.

The breakpoint for many of us former Democrats came, in fact, three years before Evangelium Vitae, when Governor Bob Casey of Pennsylvaniaa pro-life, pro-family, pro-worker embodiment of the old Catholic-Democratic alliance and a proven voter-getterwas denied the opportunity to address the 1992 Democratic National convention that first nominated Bill Clinton. If pro-abortion passions in the Democratic Party trumped the Catholic governor of a crucial swing state, well, then, there wasn’t much room left in the Democratic Party for the likes of me. Others evidently felt, and feel, the same way. That’s another thing that has led us to George Bush, the president who pushed through the partial-birth abortion ban that John Kerry sought to override. Indeed, were Kerry to be elected president and be given the opportunity to shape the federal judiciary in his image and likeness, any hope for legal protection for the unborn would probably be gone for my lifetime.

In my case, the break with my genetic party was also influenced by international politics. If Bob Casey was my last Democratic hero on the domestic policy front, it was a Democrat who died in 1983, Henry M. Jackson, who was the last national Democratic figure to understand the world and America’s distinctive responsibilities in it. Scoop Jackson, not Jimmy Carter, created modern U.S. international human rights policy; and it was Jackson Democrats who brought that policy to life in the Reagan administration and in Jacksonian initiatives like the National Endowment for Democracy.

Judging by his 19-year record in the Senate, John Kerry is the polar opposite of a Jackson Democrat. Kerry was wrong about the nuclear arms race and the end-game of the cold war, wrong about Central America, wrong about the first Persian Gulf war and wrong (insofar as one can discern his position) on the war in Iraq. The Bush administration’s record has not been perfect on the national security/international affairs front. But to a Jackson-Democrat-turned-Republican like me, there is a world of difference between recognizing the serious failures of U.S. public diplomacy since 9/11 and a foreign policy approach that imagines the impossible (French and German support for deposing Saddam Hussein) and proposes the imprudent (waiting for French and German permission to do what needs to be donewhether that be in Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Darfur or wherever.)

When Scoop Jackson died, one of his aides said to me, The last adult is gone. That was, arguably, true about the Senate Democrats. But it is not true of George W. Bush. He is an adult with an adult’s view of the world: realistic, yet not cynical; idealistic about freedom’s future, but without conventional multilateralist illusions; steadfast and courageous. George W. Bush is the kind of president Scoop Jackson would have eagerly supported (as he supported Ronald Reagan); I cannot imagine Senator Jackson summoning any enthusiasm for John Kerry, the kind of Democrat who twice denied Scoop the party’s presidential nomination. That’s another reason I will vote, gratefully, for George W. Bush.

Rebuilding the New Home

The Republican Party is not a perfect home for Catholics. Its libertarian wing is a cause for concern on the life issues; its corporate wing seems too frequently interested in federal protection and too infrequently attentive to worker retraining. No political party is ever really home to those who take Catholic social doctrine seriously. But for Catholics like me, the party of Lincoln is a far more comfortable place today than could have been imagined 40 years ago; moreover, it is an immeasurably more comfortable platform from which to work on the great issues of the day than Michael Moore’s party.

Republicans now have a real chance to fashion a long-term governing majority, built in part on the new ecumenism of Catholics and evangelical Protestants. Catholic social doctrineincluding those priority life issuescould become an even more important factor in shaping the political philosophy of that new majority than it already is in a Bush White House, where staffers and speech writers already take Catholic social thought seriously. There is no chance of doing this in today’s Democratic Party, because the party’s leadership and the overwhelming majority of its activists are unalterably committed to the pro-abortion agenda, to embryo research (which Senator Kerry has tried to demagog in a singularly ill-informed and cynical way) and to the utterly un-Catholic concepts of human dignity and freedom that the abortion license and embryo research exemplify.

Catholics struggling today with their genetic Democratic political loyalties should remember this: Americans don’t just elect a president; we elect a party and its people, who will fill the federal government for yearsand the appellate bench for decades. A second Bush administration will give Catholics an unprecedented opportunity to help create a new governing majority informed by the riches of Catholic social doctrine. That cannot be done in the Democratic Party. And that is yet another reason to vote for a good, decent and brave man, George W. Bush, the Methodist who gets the Catholic vision better than does his Catholic opponent.

For other articles on Catholics and politics, click here.

George Weigel is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., and the author, most recently, of Letters to a Young Catholic.

Comments

Denis Lynch | 9/29/2004 - 12:36pm
The nature of the arguments in Weigel's and Kelly's articles is telling. Both set the stage by describing what is important to them. From there they diverge dramatically.

Kelly provides a concrete exposition of logic leading from observations to a conclusion. The observations and the reasoning are presented in a way that allows for reasonable discussion, which surely is what the political process ought to be about.

Weigel's argument, on the other hand, is that he feels more "at home" in the Republican party than the Democratic Party. He illustrates that feeling with slogans ("free and virtuous society"), unsubstantiated accusations ("Kerry was wrong...") and name-calling ("the party of Michael Moore.")

I see this same difference everywhere I turn. The arguments for Bush are based mainly on "feeling safer" (or "at home") and vague emotional characterizations. By their nature these "arguments" are not open to reasonable discussion. The core arguments for Kerry are based on policy differences that really matter: the war in Iraq, America's place in the world, health care, fiscal responsibility. Like Kelly's, these arguments are open to discussion.

The sad consequence is that emotional arguments like Weigel's naturally elicit emotional responses. It is only with the greatest restraint that I resist countering Weigel's slogans with more of the same. I do resist, though, because like Kelly, I choose to be "at home" in rational discussion rather than emotional rooting.

Rick Fueyo | 9/22/2004 - 1:04pm
I simply cannot support a worldview that is so corrosive of community. While I lament the Democratic Pary's abortion sins, it is not the sine qua non of the party's appeal. At it's core, with the tragic exception of abortion, it seeks to defend the defenseless. The GOP's social Darwinism is antithetical to the conception of a just society that and welcoming community, the sense of a shared destiny, that is at teh core of our Faith. This President in partcular seems to particularly revel in the politics of division and domination. I cannot support him.
Tom Maloney | 9/23/2004 - 12:15pm
I learned new things from both George Weigel and James Kelly in their articles "A Catholic Votes for George Bush" and "A Catholic Votes for John Kerry."

I agree and disagree with points each of them make. Both of them abhor abortion but they differ in how we might eliminate the death of innocents. I especially emphasize Mr Weigel's statement. "No political party is ever really "home" to those who take Catholic social doctrine seriously."

But not all anti-abortionists are pro-life. Even in our own diocese, the former bishop raised six million dollars to renovate our cathedral while children around the world were starving. It is a beautiful church, but millions of innocents died for the sake of religious atmosphere. Allowing death is sometimes as evil as causing death.

Fr. Larry N. Lorenzoni, S.D.B. | 9/24/2004 - 12:36am
A catholic inclined to vote for Bush in the next election should seriously consider Bush's cavalier treatment of the pope's envoy less than a month before the war in Iraq.

After the understandable flamboyant bombast of the USA Democratic and GOP National Conventions we are now faced with the reality that war and the stark fact of the death of more than 1,000 young Americans and of thousands of Iraqis.

The critical event, probably regarded by the media as inconsequential at the time and quickly forgotten, was the March 2003 visit of Cardinal Pio Laghi to President Bush three weeks before the war in Iraq: every one of Laghi's dire predictions at that meeting are sadly becoming true.

That event was critical for a number of reasons. Laghi had been sent by the pope himself to Washington to plead with Bush and with his aides his case against the war. He had also sent Card. Roger Etchegaray to Baghdad with the same plea for Saddam Ussein. Card. Laghi did not think his arguments were given much weight: "I had the impression that they had already made their decision," Laghi said in a speech at Camaldoli (Arezzo), Italy on October 4 last year.

It was President Ronald Reagan who in 1984 had urged the U.S. Senate to confirm William A. Wilson, who had been only his personal “envoy” to the pope since 1981, as the first US Ambassador to the Holy See: Reagan's reason was his oft repeated conviction that “the Vatican is the world’s greatest listening post.”

Laghi spoke at length with the president about the terrible consequences of a war quickly won: "Do you realize, Mr. President,” Laghi said to him, “what you will unleash inside Iraq by occupying it? Do you realize the difficulty of the language, the disorder, the conflicts between Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds?" America’s formidable war machine would make quick work of Hussein’s inferior defenses, but unmanageable human problems would quickly follow.

President Bush had been offered the best Iraq intelligence available. What he sadly ignored was the fact that the Catholic bishops in Iraq are constantly in touch with the Apostolic Nuncio in Baghdad, and he with the Vatican; that they speak the people’s language and have their hand on the pulse of that nation; and that their knowledge of Iraq is more reliable than that of our highly paid intelligence agencies who cost us billions of dollars, but whose information has been repeatedly proven embarrassingly wrong and misleading.

Card. Laghi recalls his sense of failure when President Bush tried to end the meeting on a positive note: although they disagreed about many points, at least they held common positions on the defense of human life and opposition to human cloning. The cardinal replied that those issues were not the purpose of his mission to Washington.

Mary Keelan | 9/20/2004 - 4:46pm
First, is it alphabetization that positions Weigel's article on Bush before that of Kelly on Kerry, at least for those of us who are only Web subscribers? Are they side-by side in the print version but not in the web-based version? Positioning/placement is everything in journalism, is it not? Intention?

Second, this is a very difficult election process, with a deeply polarized country--which is not an abstraction but rather means caring family and friends with differing views cannot discuss the issues with any calmness and reason--and not necessarily because of Weigel's enunciation of the issues with an almost exclusive focus on the abortion/right to life etc. issue.

Third, Weigel's emphasis on the unborn is the problem. I can be opposed to abortion and other euphemisms for the destruction of the embryo and fetus, but the argument needs to start with the born, those already living on this earth, in dire poverty and sickness, in constant war and terror for their lives and those of their families, on death row awaiting execution, in no-choice employment and schooling situations, no option but the military and potential death, limb loss, abortion of their very souls. It also needs to start with those born to deprive so many of the right to life in their every day existence:unjust working conditions; no medical care at all, never mind insurance for such and preventive care; special interest-pork money to fund military installations and demonic death-dealing research; more pork barrel money to underwrite the greatest construction boom in history to house the exponentially increasing prison population; millions for the exploitation of forests, lakes, mountains, justification of these actions through donations to relgious entities which implicity, if not explicitly, endorse this body and sprit abortion in the daily lives of so many. When are the brilliant and well-schooled minds such as Weigel's going to be used to redefine the terms of this so-called religious argument on the unborn? When is the Pope's pleading for peace and an end to violence against people, his pleading for loan forgiveness and help to the poor, his criticism of first world greed, his begging for an end to the suffering of the born, going to be the starting point for quoting him? When will America Magazine help its readers to redefine the terms, help in learning the language of a new discourse,so as to be genuine change agents in the political terminology, the platform, and the issues that are determining the fate of the born on this universe? Which party or candidate is the lesser abortionist of the body and soul of the born?

Editor's note: In the print version Weigel and Kelly are pinted side by side on pages 12 & 13. Since its inception, the America Web pages have been programmed to list articles in alphabetical order--here "George" in the title precedes "John."

Robert Stewart | 9/26/2004 - 9:38am
George Weigel is an apologist for the Republican Party platform and belongs on Fox News, not on the pages of America Magazine.

He may have found a home in the Republican Party, but many of us have not, and for good reasons. Although many of us who are Democrats and Catholics have opposed abortion, it has still been the Democrats in the executive and legislative branches that have consistently promoted legislation that best advances the common good.

At the core, I have to believe that a majority of us in the Democratic party still cling to that belief so eloquently expressed by FDR: "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." If that does not reflect a preferential "option for the poor" promoted in Catholic social teaching, then what does? You will not hear any Republicans saying this.

John L. Lewis, the legendary labor leader of the United Mine Workers of America and a founding father of the CIO, once said of the bituminous coal operators during tough contract negotiations that they had "niggardly and antisocial propensities." Lewis reflects exactly my thoughts about the Republican Party and George Bush, and George Weigel has said nothing that changes my mind on the subject.

Don Rampolla | 10/9/2004 - 12:41pm
Mr. Weigel asserts that President Bush has a clear understanding of and commitment to “the Catholic vision of the free and virtuous society”. I don’t know how Mr. Weigel defines a free and virtuous society. However I do know that the Catholic vision of social and economic justice is based on two basic principles, namely that there should be a fundamental option for the poor, and that respect for life is a seamless garment encompassing every phase of life for every one of the 7 billion people on this globe. President Bush and the current administration talk the talk of respect for life, but the reality is somewhere else. The record on tax breaks for the wealthy, development of new nuclear weapons, rush to war in Iraq (a war which had been planned for more than ten years), cuts in funding for social programs, cuts in funding for environmental programs, weakening of environmental regulations, opposition to increase in the minimum wage, opposition to gun control legislation, and snubbing of international alliances and relations indicates a fundamental option for the rich, and a general disrespect for life.

For 50 years, based on my understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus in the Catholic tradition, I’ve invested time, energy and money in working for peace and justice, and against war, racism, religious intolerance, poverty, and environmental degradation. The position of George Bush and the Republican party on these issues, demonstrated by deeds not words, is abysmal. On election day I will vote for John Kerry with a clear conscience. Mr. Weigel writes “…life issues are of such gravity that opposition to the requirements of natural justice on these questions … seriously damages a Catholics communion with the church.” I agree. Mr. Weigel apparently wishes to imply that a vote for John Kerry will damage my communion with the church. Obviously he’s blind to the possibility that his communion with the church might be damaged by his vote for George Bush.

Rev. Mr. Kevin Sandberg, CSC | 10/4/2004 - 2:11pm
It is stunning, simply stunning, that George Weigel’s polemic gives no consideration to the War in Iraq as a factor in evaluating the president for re-election. It is as if the war, opposed by the Pope, has not threatened the "fate of humanity”—words Weigel applies to the abortion culture, but which John Paul applies equally to the war in Iraq.

But more significantly, Weigel’s polemic is akin to the false prophecy of Hananiah contained in the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah (28:1-17). Hananiah prophesied with empty assurances in 594 BC that the southern kingdom of Judah would be restored from Babylonian exile in 2 years. Instead, Jerusalem was utterly destroyed 7 years later because of rebellions fomented by Hananiah’s false prophecy of liberation. Similarly, Weigel perpetrates a false prophecy regarding the yoke of abortion. James Kelly (“A Catholic Votes for John Kerry” 9/27)convincingly describes the baseless nature of Weigel’s contention that voting for Bush is a vote against abortion.

George Bush and the Republican party have no intention of recriminalizing abortion, for the Republicans know full-well that if they had no issue with which to string Catholics along, Catholics would realize that Republicans have relatively little to offer a Church which John Paul has positioned on the side of peace in equal solidarity with the poor and the unborn. Abortion foes must first love the neighbor they can see (the soldier, the Iraqi) before they profess to love the neighbor (the unborn) who goes unseen. Let those with ears hear then once again the authoritative Word of God: Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen” (I John 4:20).

Ann Yurek | 9/28/2004 - 11:52am
Bush – Kerry

I am a nonpracticing Catholic, pro-choice woman who has read George Weigel’s "A Catholic Votes for George W. Bush" twice.

I find the enthusiasm for Bush astonishing and the proposition that we vote for a gentlemen like Bush because of the abortion issue wrong.

Defining George W. as a “good, decent, and brave man” is frightening. This is a man who took his country to an unjust war unprepared, and created the circumstances for the world’s enemy - “terrorism” – opportunity for more havoc, risks American and Iraqi lives with an enthusiasm that should be restricted to the town’s Thanksgiving football game.

Mr. Bush through his administration is a callous, arrogant, and aggressive man in over his head, taking a society into the black hole of violence. It’s not his fault. He is simply incompetent. And we will make it right with John Kerry and his administration with far healthier, more global thinking than Mr. Bush is capable of doing. It’s not his fault. He is simply incompetent.

Mr. Weigel is indicating a willingness to allow George W. Bush to spin the world into that which everyone thought impossible – as with World War II -- World War III.

The abortion question? What a horrible view of American society to think that simply because we can, we will. This is a despicable opinion and a disrespect for humanity. There are too many abortions. Too many abortions are occurring for wrong reasons – finishing school, tight budgets, bad timing, etc. . . As we build a healthier society that is indeed inclusive of all peoples, their individual heritages, needs, and support, not condemn, abortion will fade into oblivion as a solution, as should the violence of war. This is the direction that true Catholics who understand the Christ message will work toward, and they will be followed. George W. Bush and his Republicans do not have the answers for the future. They are an obstacle to the proper and correct vision for not only America, but all societies in today’s world.

George W. Bush – led by Karl Rove I guess – is using fears, lies, uncertainties to get permission to continue a mistake. This is not good or decent or brave. It is wrong.

Kathleen Vinehout | 9/24/2004 - 11:01am
Thank you to America's editors for tackling one of the toughest elections of our time in a fair and balanced way. Thank you also for presenting the arguments with enough time before the election to allow for wide dissemenation and discussion.

Mr. Weigel alluded to the GOP ideology of a "free economy" but fails mention how this ideology argues moving toward the shrinking of govenment's role until, as Grover Norquist said, it is small enough to drowned in a bathtub.

When one sees no role for govenment - other than to maintain power - every function can be potentially directed toward maintaining that power. A case in point, this week I journeyed to Washington to lobby with my fellow dairy farmers and discovered a document by USDA employees presented to an industry group on how to maximize Republican votes in dairy states. (http://www.house.gov/obey/item-USDAmilktax.pdf) The strategy was to keep milk prices high until after the election and then deal with the deficit, cut the Milk Income Loss Program and add a producer assessment - a tax - on every dairy farmer. All after the election.

The idea that UDSA is working for industry is not new. (See http://www.competitivemarkets.com/pdf/USDAagencyCapture.pdf) Political activity by government agencies is illegal and immoral but it is consistent with the view that government has no role but to promote a free unfettered economy.

louis d. sasselli | 9/19/2004 - 5:56pm
I am amazed that Mr. Wiegel does not take into account the 29 young people that were killed in Irag this week adding to the more than 1000 deaths so far due to this President and his foolish war. Even the Pope asked him not to start the killing.

He is the first president in the history of this country to start a war on a people who have never killed a single American. Thousands have died as a direct result of this war and 10,000 will be seriously handicapped for the rest of their lives. Yet during his tenure and the controll of the congress by his party abortions go on.

Millions of Americans have lost their jobs and more and more people are living without adequate health care. This while his constituents pay less taxes than the average American family person.

Most of the Catholic politicians that he has named are personally opposed to abortion but feel that every woman has a right to choose; even if her choice is a wrong one. Catholics every day make wrong choices and have to answer for those choices. The history of the church is full of wrong choices and we have to live with them. The same is true today. People always should be allowed to exercise their freedom of choice even if we know that it is wrong.

While I doubt that much will change should Kerry be elected I am hopeful that we average Americans will be given an equal footing with the Geore Bush and for that matter John Kerry wealth class.

Denis Lynch | 9/29/2004 - 12:36pm
The nature of the arguments in Weigel's and Kelly's articles is telling. Both set the stage by describing what is important to them. From there they diverge dramatically.

Kelly provides a concrete exposition of logic leading from observations to a conclusion. The observations and the reasoning are presented in a way that allows for reasonable discussion, which surely is what the political process ought to be about.

Weigel's argument, on the other hand, is that he feels more "at home" in the Republican party than the Democratic Party. He illustrates that feeling with slogans ("free and virtuous society"), unsubstantiated accusations ("Kerry was wrong...") and name-calling ("the party of Michael Moore.")

I see this same difference everywhere I turn. The arguments for Bush are based mainly on "feeling safer" (or "at home") and vague emotional characterizations. By their nature these "arguments" are not open to reasonable discussion. The core arguments for Kerry are based on policy differences that really matter: the war in Iraq, America's place in the world, health care, fiscal responsibility. Like Kelly's, these arguments are open to discussion.

The sad consequence is that emotional arguments like Weigel's naturally elicit emotional responses. It is only with the greatest restraint that I resist countering Weigel's slogans with more of the same. I do resist, though, because like Kelly, I choose to be "at home" in rational discussion rather than emotional rooting.

Rick Fueyo | 9/22/2004 - 1:04pm
I simply cannot support a worldview that is so corrosive of community. While I lament the Democratic Pary's abortion sins, it is not the sine qua non of the party's appeal. At it's core, with the tragic exception of abortion, it seeks to defend the defenseless. The GOP's social Darwinism is antithetical to the conception of a just society that and welcoming community, the sense of a shared destiny, that is at teh core of our Faith. This President in partcular seems to particularly revel in the politics of division and domination. I cannot support him.
Tom Maloney | 9/23/2004 - 12:15pm
I learned new things from both George Weigel and James Kelly in their articles "A Catholic Votes for George Bush" and "A Catholic Votes for John Kerry."

I agree and disagree with points each of them make. Both of them abhor abortion but they differ in how we might eliminate the death of innocents. I especially emphasize Mr Weigel's statement. "No political party is ever really "home" to those who take Catholic social doctrine seriously."

But not all anti-abortionists are pro-life. Even in our own diocese, the former bishop raised six million dollars to renovate our cathedral while children around the world were starving. It is a beautiful church, but millions of innocents died for the sake of religious atmosphere. Allowing death is sometimes as evil as causing death.

Fr. Larry N. Lorenzoni, S.D.B. | 9/24/2004 - 12:36am
A catholic inclined to vote for Bush in the next election should seriously consider Bush's cavalier treatment of the pope's envoy less than a month before the war in Iraq.

After the understandable flamboyant bombast of the USA Democratic and GOP National Conventions we are now faced with the reality that war and the stark fact of the death of more than 1,000 young Americans and of thousands of Iraqis.

The critical event, probably regarded by the media as inconsequential at the time and quickly forgotten, was the March 2003 visit of Cardinal Pio Laghi to President Bush three weeks before the war in Iraq: every one of Laghi's dire predictions at that meeting are sadly becoming true.

That event was critical for a number of reasons. Laghi had been sent by the pope himself to Washington to plead with Bush and with his aides his case against the war. He had also sent Card. Roger Etchegaray to Baghdad with the same plea for Saddam Ussein. Card. Laghi did not think his arguments were given much weight: "I had the impression that they had already made their decision," Laghi said in a speech at Camaldoli (Arezzo), Italy on October 4 last year.

It was President Ronald Reagan who in 1984 had urged the U.S. Senate to confirm William A. Wilson, who had been only his personal “envoy” to the pope since 1981, as the first US Ambassador to the Holy See: Reagan's reason was his oft repeated conviction that “the Vatican is the world’s greatest listening post.”

Laghi spoke at length with the president about the terrible consequences of a war quickly won: "Do you realize, Mr. President,” Laghi said to him, “what you will unleash inside Iraq by occupying it? Do you realize the difficulty of the language, the disorder, the conflicts between Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds?" America’s formidable war machine would make quick work of Hussein’s inferior defenses, but unmanageable human problems would quickly follow.

President Bush had been offered the best Iraq intelligence available. What he sadly ignored was the fact that the Catholic bishops in Iraq are constantly in touch with the Apostolic Nuncio in Baghdad, and he with the Vatican; that they speak the people’s language and have their hand on the pulse of that nation; and that their knowledge of Iraq is more reliable than that of our highly paid intelligence agencies who cost us billions of dollars, but whose information has been repeatedly proven embarrassingly wrong and misleading.

Card. Laghi recalls his sense of failure when President Bush tried to end the meeting on a positive note: although they disagreed about many points, at least they held common positions on the defense of human life and opposition to human cloning. The cardinal replied that those issues were not the purpose of his mission to Washington.

Mary Keelan | 9/20/2004 - 4:46pm
First, is it alphabetization that positions Weigel's article on Bush before that of Kelly on Kerry, at least for those of us who are only Web subscribers? Are they side-by side in the print version but not in the web-based version? Positioning/placement is everything in journalism, is it not? Intention?

Second, this is a very difficult election process, with a deeply polarized country--which is not an abstraction but rather means caring family and friends with differing views cannot discuss the issues with any calmness and reason--and not necessarily because of Weigel's enunciation of the issues with an almost exclusive focus on the abortion/right to life etc. issue.

Third, Weigel's emphasis on the unborn is the problem. I can be opposed to abortion and other euphemisms for the destruction of the embryo and fetus, but the argument needs to start with the born, those already living on this earth, in dire poverty and sickness, in constant war and terror for their lives and those of their families, on death row awaiting execution, in no-choice employment and schooling situations, no option but the military and potential death, limb loss, abortion of their very souls. It also needs to start with those born to deprive so many of the right to life in their every day existence:unjust working conditions; no medical care at all, never mind insurance for such and preventive care; special interest-pork money to fund military installations and demonic death-dealing research; more pork barrel money to underwrite the greatest construction boom in history to house the exponentially increasing prison population; millions for the exploitation of forests, lakes, mountains, justification of these actions through donations to relgious entities which implicity, if not explicitly, endorse this body and sprit abortion in the daily lives of so many. When are the brilliant and well-schooled minds such as Weigel's going to be used to redefine the terms of this so-called religious argument on the unborn? When is the Pope's pleading for peace and an end to violence against people, his pleading for loan forgiveness and help to the poor, his criticism of first world greed, his begging for an end to the suffering of the born, going to be the starting point for quoting him? When will America Magazine help its readers to redefine the terms, help in learning the language of a new discourse,so as to be genuine change agents in the political terminology, the platform, and the issues that are determining the fate of the born on this universe? Which party or candidate is the lesser abortionist of the body and soul of the born?

Editor's note: In the print version Weigel and Kelly are pinted side by side on pages 12 & 13. Since its inception, the America Web pages have been programmed to list articles in alphabetical order--here "George" in the title precedes "John."

Robert Stewart | 9/26/2004 - 9:38am
George Weigel is an apologist for the Republican Party platform and belongs on Fox News, not on the pages of America Magazine.

He may have found a home in the Republican Party, but many of us have not, and for good reasons. Although many of us who are Democrats and Catholics have opposed abortion, it has still been the Democrats in the executive and legislative branches that have consistently promoted legislation that best advances the common good.

At the core, I have to believe that a majority of us in the Democratic party still cling to that belief so eloquently expressed by FDR: "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." If that does not reflect a preferential "option for the poor" promoted in Catholic social teaching, then what does? You will not hear any Republicans saying this.

John L. Lewis, the legendary labor leader of the United Mine Workers of America and a founding father of the CIO, once said of the bituminous coal operators during tough contract negotiations that they had "niggardly and antisocial propensities." Lewis reflects exactly my thoughts about the Republican Party and George Bush, and George Weigel has said nothing that changes my mind on the subject.

Don Rampolla | 10/9/2004 - 12:41pm
Mr. Weigel asserts that President Bush has a clear understanding of and commitment to “the Catholic vision of the free and virtuous society”. I don’t know how Mr. Weigel defines a free and virtuous society. However I do know that the Catholic vision of social and economic justice is based on two basic principles, namely that there should be a fundamental option for the poor, and that respect for life is a seamless garment encompassing every phase of life for every one of the 7 billion people on this globe. President Bush and the current administration talk the talk of respect for life, but the reality is somewhere else. The record on tax breaks for the wealthy, development of new nuclear weapons, rush to war in Iraq (a war which had been planned for more than ten years), cuts in funding for social programs, cuts in funding for environmental programs, weakening of environmental regulations, opposition to increase in the minimum wage, opposition to gun control legislation, and snubbing of international alliances and relations indicates a fundamental option for the rich, and a general disrespect for life.

For 50 years, based on my understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus in the Catholic tradition, I’ve invested time, energy and money in working for peace and justice, and against war, racism, religious intolerance, poverty, and environmental degradation. The position of George Bush and the Republican party on these issues, demonstrated by deeds not words, is abysmal. On election day I will vote for John Kerry with a clear conscience. Mr. Weigel writes “…life issues are of such gravity that opposition to the requirements of natural justice on these questions … seriously damages a Catholics communion with the church.” I agree. Mr. Weigel apparently wishes to imply that a vote for John Kerry will damage my communion with the church. Obviously he’s blind to the possibility that his communion with the church might be damaged by his vote for George Bush.

Rev. Mr. Kevin Sandberg, CSC | 10/4/2004 - 2:11pm
It is stunning, simply stunning, that George Weigel’s polemic gives no consideration to the War in Iraq as a factor in evaluating the president for re-election. It is as if the war, opposed by the Pope, has not threatened the "fate of humanity”—words Weigel applies to the abortion culture, but which John Paul applies equally to the war in Iraq.

But more significantly, Weigel’s polemic is akin to the false prophecy of Hananiah contained in the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah (28:1-17). Hananiah prophesied with empty assurances in 594 BC that the southern kingdom of Judah would be restored from Babylonian exile in 2 years. Instead, Jerusalem was utterly destroyed 7 years later because of rebellions fomented by Hananiah’s false prophecy of liberation. Similarly, Weigel perpetrates a false prophecy regarding the yoke of abortion. James Kelly (“A Catholic Votes for John Kerry” 9/27)convincingly describes the baseless nature of Weigel’s contention that voting for Bush is a vote against abortion.

George Bush and the Republican party have no intention of recriminalizing abortion, for the Republicans know full-well that if they had no issue with which to string Catholics along, Catholics would realize that Republicans have relatively little to offer a Church which John Paul has positioned on the side of peace in equal solidarity with the poor and the unborn. Abortion foes must first love the neighbor they can see (the soldier, the Iraqi) before they profess to love the neighbor (the unborn) who goes unseen. Let those with ears hear then once again the authoritative Word of God: Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen” (I John 4:20).

Ann Yurek | 9/28/2004 - 11:52am
Bush – Kerry

I am a nonpracticing Catholic, pro-choice woman who has read George Weigel’s "A Catholic Votes for George W. Bush" twice.

I find the enthusiasm for Bush astonishing and the proposition that we vote for a gentlemen like Bush because of the abortion issue wrong.

Defining George W. as a “good, decent, and brave man” is frightening. This is a man who took his country to an unjust war unprepared, and created the circumstances for the world’s enemy - “terrorism” – opportunity for more havoc, risks American and Iraqi lives with an enthusiasm that should be restricted to the town’s Thanksgiving football game.

Mr. Bush through his administration is a callous, arrogant, and aggressive man in over his head, taking a society into the black hole of violence. It’s not his fault. He is simply incompetent. And we will make it right with John Kerry and his administration with far healthier, more global thinking than Mr. Bush is capable of doing. It’s not his fault. He is simply incompetent.

Mr. Weigel is indicating a willingness to allow George W. Bush to spin the world into that which everyone thought impossible – as with World War II -- World War III.

The abortion question? What a horrible view of American society to think that simply because we can, we will. This is a despicable opinion and a disrespect for humanity. There are too many abortions. Too many abortions are occurring for wrong reasons – finishing school, tight budgets, bad timing, etc. . . As we build a healthier society that is indeed inclusive of all peoples, their individual heritages, needs, and support, not condemn, abortion will fade into oblivion as a solution, as should the violence of war. This is the direction that true Catholics who understand the Christ message will work toward, and they will be followed. George W. Bush and his Republicans do not have the answers for the future. They are an obstacle to the proper and correct vision for not only America, but all societies in today’s world.

George W. Bush – led by Karl Rove I guess – is using fears, lies, uncertainties to get permission to continue a mistake. This is not good or decent or brave. It is wrong.

Kathleen Vinehout | 9/24/2004 - 11:01am
Thank you to America's editors for tackling one of the toughest elections of our time in a fair and balanced way. Thank you also for presenting the arguments with enough time before the election to allow for wide dissemenation and discussion.

Mr. Weigel alluded to the GOP ideology of a "free economy" but fails mention how this ideology argues moving toward the shrinking of govenment's role until, as Grover Norquist said, it is small enough to drowned in a bathtub.

When one sees no role for govenment - other than to maintain power - every function can be potentially directed toward maintaining that power. A case in point, this week I journeyed to Washington to lobby with my fellow dairy farmers and discovered a document by USDA employees presented to an industry group on how to maximize Republican votes in dairy states. (http://www.house.gov/obey/item-USDAmilktax.pdf) The strategy was to keep milk prices high until after the election and then deal with the deficit, cut the Milk Income Loss Program and add a producer assessment - a tax - on every dairy farmer. All after the election.

The idea that UDSA is working for industry is not new. (See http://www.competitivemarkets.com/pdf/USDAagencyCapture.pdf) Political activity by government agencies is illegal and immoral but it is consistent with the view that government has no role but to promote a free unfettered economy.

louis d. sasselli | 9/19/2004 - 5:56pm
I am amazed that Mr. Wiegel does not take into account the 29 young people that were killed in Irag this week adding to the more than 1000 deaths so far due to this President and his foolish war. Even the Pope asked him not to start the killing.

He is the first president in the history of this country to start a war on a people who have never killed a single American. Thousands have died as a direct result of this war and 10,000 will be seriously handicapped for the rest of their lives. Yet during his tenure and the controll of the congress by his party abortions go on.

Millions of Americans have lost their jobs and more and more people are living without adequate health care. This while his constituents pay less taxes than the average American family person.

Most of the Catholic politicians that he has named are personally opposed to abortion but feel that every woman has a right to choose; even if her choice is a wrong one. Catholics every day make wrong choices and have to answer for those choices. The history of the church is full of wrong choices and we have to live with them. The same is true today. People always should be allowed to exercise their freedom of choice even if we know that it is wrong.

While I doubt that much will change should Kerry be elected I am hopeful that we average Americans will be given an equal footing with the Geore Bush and for that matter John Kerry wealth class.