Decisions made in the voting booth are deeply personal and reflect a combination of an individual’s experiences and beliefs. Along with these convictions, one’s faith is often a strong source of inspiration, but it’s not the only one. While it’s a common belief that some religious groups vote in “blocs,” it’s not right to pigeonhole people into one political category just because of their religious affiliation.
Which is why I’ve been disturbed by what appears to me to be a growing notion in our society that “all good American Catholics vote Republican.”
I want to clear a few things up before everyone starts typing his or her angry emails. In no way do I intend to suggest that it’s wrong for Catholics to vote for Republicans, or for Democrats, or for Libertarians, or for any other party or candidate they choose. Quite the contrary. While I believe that the implications of the First Amendment encourage me to keep my religious life and my political life separate, that is my choice; it doesn’t have to be anybody else’s. I believe anyone can vote for any candidate of his or her choosing, for any reason.
What disturbs me is that it seems to me like there is this idea out there that Catholic Americans who vote for Democrats are somehow “bad Catholics.” I think other people sense it too.
My goal here is not to change anybody’s vote but to change the minds of people – both Catholic and non-Catholic – who believe that Catholics who don’t vote Republican aren’t real followers of the faith.
With that, I give you, in no particular order, my five favorite reasons why some Catholics might vote Democrat and probably won’t go to Hell.
1. Social programs – Matthew 25:40 reads, “… whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Any way you slice it, Catholic teachings ask that we don’t let people starve. Now, there is a credible argument that care for the poor should only come from private charity, but if public funding for social programs is reduced, could private charity really make up the difference?
2. The sanctity of human life – The death penalty is in conflict with Catholic teachings on the sanctity of human life. The Democratic Party wants to further limit the frequency of this punishment.
3. Reproductive rights – Yes, the use of birth control is against Catholic teachings, but increased access to birth control has been shown to reduce the rate of abortions, according to a Washington University study. So, I guess for many Catholics, this is a choice between two evils – outlaw abortion and force it underground or help to provide contraception and decrease the number of such procedures.
4. Immigration – Democrats support the DREAM Act, a bill which would provide people who were brought here illegally as children with a path to citizenship and was endorsed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Not only that, but many immigrants are from Catholic-rich nations in Central and South America. More humane policies toward immigration could encourage the migration of Catholics that would help to strengthen parishes in our communities in the U.S.
5. The environment – The Democratic Party accepts the scientific consensus that climate change is man-made and seeks solutions to the problem. In Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, the USCCB says, “We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of God’s creation.” That means limiting our negative impact on the environment we live in, an integral part of the Democratic platform.
As we head into the most heated part of the election season, I just wanted to offer the perspective that maybe Catholics who vote for Democrats aren’t so bad after all.