To the Editor:
Regardless of party affiliation, there is general agreement that the 2020 presidential election may be the most important election in our lifetime. Beyond and above any specific issue is the extreme polarization of the country — a polarization that borders on and sometimes breaks into destruction and deadly violence. More than ever, clear direction to Catholic voters is needed from the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church.
A fundamental reality for Catholic voters is that neither political party supports the full spectrum of Catholic social thought. For many Catholics legal prohibition of abortion has been the dominant issue in local and national elections. That is understandable but the words of Pope Francis need to be seriously considered:
“Defense of the innocent unborn needs to be clear and passionate. Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, the already born, the destitute, the abandoned and under privileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery and every form of rejection.” — Pope Francis, Gaudete et Exsultate (2018)
One could add to the pope’s concerns the threat of climate change which he addressed with passion in his encyclical Laudato Si (2015) and the immediate American crisis of persistent racism. Given the range of Catholic concerns, no Catholic can be a single-issue voter.
We cite two extraordinarily pressing life issues, abortion and climate change, on which our two major parties diverge. There is no Catholic mandate that gives categorical priority to either. The death total of abortion is immediate. Climate change threatens the future of humanity.
Faithful Citizenship, the official statement of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops states, its intent to form “a consistent moral framework on the issues” facing voters. While this is surely of great importance, concentration on issues misses the final reality of voting: we vote for candidates. We may hope and expect that a candidate will promote issues consistent with Catholic Social Teaching, but no candidate is likely to satisfy the broad range of Catholic concerns.
Over and above the relation of a candidate to Catholic issues, there is a question about the ability of the candidate to fulfill the vast array of constitutional duties attendant on presidential office. Does the candidate have the experience, the specific abilities, and the character to accept the responsibility of office and to act as the leader of the nation? Faithful Citizenship does not speak to the issue of character directly. The only relevant language is at the conclusion of an Introductory Letter for the 2020 edition:
“At all levels of society we are aware of a great need for leadership that models love for righteousness...as well as the virtues of justice prudence, courage and temperance...to treat with respect those with whom we disagree, to dismantle stereotypes, and to build productive conversation in place of vitriol.”
Concerned Catholics of Vermont Steering committee: Terese Black, Melanie and Ernie Clerihew, Frankie Dunleavy, Joseph Gainza, Ursula Hirschman and Dennis O’Brien