When we vote, we are not voting for the candidate but for the party platform and all within it
By Bishop Richard F. Stika
“Thus says the Lord…. Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?” — Ezekiel 18:25
Questions God Asks. God always asks hard questions of us, but only that we might further scrutinize our thoughts and better discern the decisions we must make to bring us closer to God and the way He thinks and loves. With this in mind, I will pose a number of questions that might prove very challenging to answer, but answer you must—not to me, but to God because they are moral questions, and they deal with how you will vote in the upcoming election.
End and Means. There are two foundational principles of morality that we must always be guided by in discerning our choices in life—“do good and avoid evil,” and “the end does not justify the means.” Together, these basic truths remind us that no matter how good the end is that we desire, good intentions can never excuse the use of evil means in attaining them. Such is the lens we must use to approach the moral act of voting.
Two Paths. Perhaps you share my serious concern that the election that is upon us will decide whether the path our nation takes will be to the quickening of its ruin or not. At this crucial time in our nation’s history, I am reminded of the opening words in the ancient Christian manuscript of the first or second century, “The Didache”: “There are two ways, one of life and one of death; but a great difference between the two ways.” Of the two political parties, which do you feel best promotes the way of life or the way of death?
Candidates and Platforms. While many are focusing solely upon the candidates and their personalities and mannerisms, and the media’s select reporting of them, it is critically important to go beyond the candidates and to actually examine each party’s political platform. For what we actually are voting for is the political platform of the candidate’s party and the means that party will employ to obtain its vision for the country and for each of you.
Read the Platform. The political platforms of both parties can be easily read online (note: Google “2016 Republican Party Platform,” as because of COVID-19 they kept their 2016 platform unchanged). Though it takes a good bit of effort to go beyond all the political rhetoric and the “pie in the sky” promises and hyperbole, you will get a much better idea of each party’s agenda.
Life Issues. An examination of the party platforms reveals starkly different positions on issues involving intrinsic evils that are never permissible or acceptable. On issues regarding the sanctity of life, the platforms are polar opposites of each other on abortion, infanticide, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia and assisted suicide, and the death penalty, as well as on the criteria they will use for the selection of judges and Supreme Court justices to defend their particular stand on these life issues.
Other Issues. The platforms also highlight each party’s position on religious freedom and conscience rights (although we must also look at the past 12 years to see the reality of their definition of these), as well as separation of church and state. The parties differ significantly on issues related to marriage and the family, gender identity, on the educational system, on sex and LGBTQ instruction in our public schools, and on school choice. They differ significantly on the size of government and socialism, taxation, more or less business and trade regulations, and on immigration reform and the rights of a nation to control its borders. They have different plans for health insurance and medical care. And they differ on the best way to protect the environment.
Supporting Agendas. When you vote for a political candidate, you are in fact empowering their particular party to advance the agenda outlined in their platform. Whether I choose a candidate because of his personality or because I like his party’s stand on particular issues, we must understand that our vote supports their party’s entire agenda—you buy into the party’s entire program for our country.
Issues We Can’t Ignore. There are many issues that are a matter of prudential judgment, meaning there can be legitimate debate about which party offers the better solution on various issues. But some issues are of such moral weight that they rise above all other issues and can become the preeminent issue that decides how we cast our vote.
Questions to Ponder. Here, I wish to ask a series of questions, prefaced with some brief background, that we must seriously ponder and answer regarding our vote in this election.
Pre-eminent Issue. Not everyone believes abortion to be the pre-eminent moral issue of our time, nor of this election. But it’s hard to argue with the statistical facts that each week in our country approximately 19,000 unborn children are “surgically” aborted in the most horrific and painful way. This number would be significantly higher if the number of “chemical” RU-486 abortions was counted, which they are not. But because many are indifferent about abortion, including clergy, ask yourself the following questions.
Questions. Medical science is irrefutable in affirming that human life begins at conception. So instead of unborn children, if 19,000 Jews or Muslims, Blacks, Hispanics, or Asians were brutally executed each week in our country and their remains thrown in garbage dumpsters, would you vote for the political party that promotes and protects the right to do so? Can you vote for a party whose platform clearly supports, promotes, and will do everything possible to protect the willful destruction of human life on a genocidal scale? Do you believe that a more just society can be built upon a foundation that considers the unborn child to be less of a person and therefore undeserving of the most basic right that our Constitution guarantees: the right to life?
A Historical Perspective. Let us look back at a time when our nation and its highest court in the land ruled that another class of people, African slaves, were “less than human” and therefore considered “property” to be used as one wished. If you were alive in the mid-1800s up until slavery’s end, would slavery have been a preeminent moral issue for you, or would it have been one issue among many others that you felt equally or more important? Would you have voted for candidates of the pro-slavery political party or would you have voted for those of the anti-slavery political party?
Tax Support. If you lived in the 1800s, would you have voted for a political party that insisted that your tax dollars should support the slave trade and its organizations the same way your tax dollars are being used today to support Planned Parenthood and the culture of death within our nation as well as globally? Would you vote for the political party if it forced you, against your conscience, to support the slave trade as a part of your health insurance premiums (had such existed back then) the way the Affordable Care Act mandated that abortion, abortifacients, and contraceptives be provided, even by the Church, in insurance packages to employees?
Another Perspective. During World War II, 6 million Jews were systematically exterminated over a six-year period between 1939 and 1945. Over each six-year period since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision to legalize abortion, approximately the same number of unborn children is exterminated in our country as the total number of Jewish people during the Holocaust. Can you vote for a political party that sees nothing morally wrong with the abortion of the unborn on a scale that repeats that of the Holocaust every six years in our country? Can you vote for a political party that has vowed to appoint judges and Supreme Court justices that support and protect the right to abortion, knowing this may result in this law becoming so enshrined and legally protected as never to be overturned?
Red Dragon. In the Book of Revelation (12:3), we find a horrible image of abortion and infanticide in its description of the “huge red dragon” ready to devour the child a woman is in labor with. The image recalls the idolatrous practice of child sacrifice to the demon deity Molech that the Israelites, in failing to follow God, practiced to their ruin. Are not abortion and infanticide the continued sacrifice of innocent life to this demon deity? Can you in good conscience vote for a political party that promotes what God declared to be an abomination?
Care of the Environment. Do you believe that on the level of sheer magnitude, abortion is the pre-eminent moral issue of our time? Can you vote for a political party that wants to take extreme measures to protect our environment when it takes the most extreme measures to destroy life in the first environment, the womb?
Alternative Facts and Civil Discourse. Unfortunately, we live in a time of “alternative facts”—my truth your truth, my reality your reality—that shuts down any attempt at discourse on serious issues. This is why we are beginning to see everything falling apart around us. If our nation cannot debate issues civilly and intelligently, then violence becomes the answer to solving problems, particularly that of racism. And in reality, violence never solves problems, but creates new ones.
Fears and Consequences. Are there other issues that also should be considered as a part of good governance and our vote? Absolutely. But like the terrible issue of slavery in the 1800s, abortion is the pre-eminent issue that stands apart and above all the other issues. If the political party that supports this gains control, I fear this evil practice will be enshrined in such a way as to never be overturned. I fear people will be forced to support this genocidal evil, and that health-care professionals, and even Catholic hospitals, will be forced to perform abortions and sterilizations against their beliefs. I fear that our priests and Catholics of good conscience will be arrested and charged with “hate crimes” for simply praying outside of abortion facilities or speaking in defense of the sanctity of marriage and the moral teachings of the Church. I fear the consequences that our nation faces, as it did because of slavery, for the shedding of so much innocent blood from abortion, a sin that cries out from the blood-soaked ground to heaven like Abel’s blood after his murder by Cain (Genesis 4:10).
Frustration. Do I disagree with the political party that supports the death penalty? Yes I do. Do I disagree with the political party that does not more compassionately balance the dignity and right of a person to migrate against a nation’s right to control its borders? Yes I do. But sadly, I am unable to reflect this disagreement in my vote because of the far greater assaults upon the sanctity and dignity of human life that one political party so unashamedly violates and protects.
Hierarchy of Values. The reason I take issue with any political party is over anything that violates the sanctity and dignity of the human person created in God’s image. In this regard, I find the hierarchy of values promoted by the Second Vatican Council a great help in prioritizing the weight of various issues. Of greatest weight and value for us to consider in voting “whatever is opposed to life itself,” followed by “whatever violates the integrity of the human person,” and then “whatever insults human dignity” (Gaudium et Spes, 27). But in this hierarchy, it is that which is “opposed to life itself” that defines the pre-eminent issue of our time and of this election.
What I Cannot Vote For. For this reason, I cannot vote for a political party and its agenda that supports the unrestricted genocide of abortion (19,000-plus human lives a week exterminated). I cannot vote for a political party that continues to erode protections of conscience rights. I cannot support the party that attacks and condemns the Catholic Church and people of faith for speaking out on matters of faith and morals. I cannot support a party that attacks the sanctity of marriage and the family, for what harms the family, harms society. I cannot vote for a party that redefines human sexuality and gender identity and wants to force its ideology driven “sex education” in our public schools in violation of parental rights. I cannot support the growing acceptance of the grave social error of socialism that the Church has condemned for over 125 years. And I cannot support any political party that pushes God out of society and its governing, for it is the Lord God who is the true King and Ruler that governments and leaders should pattern their manner of governing after. Words to Heed. So I close with the words of Moses to the Israelites as they neared the end of their Exodus that you, too, must heed:
“Here, then, I have today set before you life and prosperity, death and doom…. I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the LORD, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him. For that will mean life for you, a long life for you to live on the land which the LORD swore he would give (Deuteronomy 30:15, 19-20).”
I am a Catholic and will vote for human life. I vote for Trump.
Although my wife and I attend a Christian Church that is not Catholic, we thank Bishop Stika for his clear and correct review of a political party that will surely destroy the country in which we live and have raised our children and grandchildren. My son is a priest in the archdiocese of Detroit, and I have forwarded this write-up to him. I hope he passes the messages of Bishop Stika to his parish.
Bishop Stika, thank you for moral clarity and reason. We all must vote our conscience in this consequential election.
We agree, Betty and Emil Zenk Crossville.
Thank you for being a true shepherd. Your message is clear and understandable.
Pro life means conception to natural death. Too many people see it as pro birth and do little to help people during their lifetime. With the exception of being anti-abortion, there is little that I think Jesus would agree with in the Republican platform. I am a Catholic and will be voting Biden in good conscience.
I am not sure you have read the Republican Platform. Your response is strictly emotional. God bless you and I hope He will speak to your heart. Your soul and spirit are starving right now. Read His word. Your biological machine (body) will fail one day and your soul will stand in your decision the moment of your passing before our beloved Savior Jesus Christ. How will you justify to our Lord that you are okay with the killing of 62 million American souls and counting? Former VP Biden is okay with this law and policy so you are too. It’s the policy, not the person. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Good luck to you.
His response isn’t emotional at all. And He didn’t say He was “ok” with 62 million souls and counting or that because Biden is okay with it He is too. You need to brush up on your critical thinking skills and stop leaping to conclusions unwarranted by the text. He spoke the unfortunate truth that in many places in this country, that the Democrat platform does more “pro life” work for those here alive with us today than Republican conglomerates. In many Republican administrations, state by state, those unable to fend for themselves do worse than under Democratic States. Neither party is truly “pro life” and there are more complex issues as to how respect for life is played out in local, state and federal policies per state and region than your admitting or probably even aware by the simple presentation of your response. When the Republican party as a whole addresses, nationwide, the issues that put people into situations where they feel the need to abort, things have a better chance of changing. Perhaps you are the one who needs to read “His Word”: “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you tells him, “Go in peace; stay warm and well fed, but does not provide for his physical needs, what good is that? So too, faith by itself, if it does not result in action, is dead.” James 2:16. Until the Republican party truly begins to take responsibility with valuing life already born, it has no moral authority to be claiming how much it values those in the womb. And until that time, people like Adam, who have a better grasp of the true situation than yourself will continue to do more for life than those of your current mindset. The Republican Party may be anti abortion, but it isn’t pro life in any meaningful sense of the term and certainly isn’t any more Christian than the Democratic. It’s sad how easily certain people like yourself can be tricked into giving their vote to a party that, reviewing both it’s Domestic and Foreign policy record, has so little regard for human life in almost every other aspect of it’s public policy. God bless you.
In 1987, an 18-month-old baby girl fell into an abandoned well in Texas and was in danger of dying. For 3 days, the Nation was riveted to News coverage of the heroic efforts to save “Baby Jessica” as millions prayed and dozens worked around the clock to save her. This happened largely because we SAW the image of her peril and knew the terrible death that would result if the rescue failed. The life of that one small girl was that precious to all of us. The Nation and the World cheered wildly when she was pulled from the well, the life of one child saved. Conversely, a principle cause of the abortion tragedy is that we DON’T SEE the carnage of surgical dismemberment or chemical burning that are the real results of abortion. Only rarely do we confront this actual horror such as in the case of criminal abortionist Kermit Gosnell. 37 years ago, the power of seeing the reality of one child facing death moved the Country to help save her. 157 years ago, we recognized the inhumanity of enslaving 600,000 people in bondage. Our ancestors fought a war and changed our laws to end slavery. 47 years ago, the Courts imposed legalized abortion on America, destroying 60,000,000 of our children to this time.
The preeminent moral obligation of all governments is to provide for the protection and safety of their people. Citizens and Christians must give dominant priority to voting for those who will change our laws to restore the protection of the lives of our smallest people.
Back at you, Mea: ” It’s sad how easily certain people like yourself can be tricked into giving their vote to a party that, reviewing both it’s Domestic and Foreign policy record, has so little regard for human life in almost every other aspect of it’s public policy. God bless you.”
In 1987, an 18-month-old baby girl fell into an abandoned well in Texas and was in danger of dying. For 3 days, the Nation was riveted to News coverage of the heroic efforts to save “Baby Jessica” as millions prayed and dozens worked around the clock to save her. This happened largely because we SAW the image of her peril and knew the terrible death that would result if the rescue failed. The life of that one small girl was that precious to all of us. The Nation and the World cheered wildly when she was pulled from the well, the life of one child saved. Conversely, a principle cause of the abortion tragedy is that we don’t see the carnage of surgical dismemberment or chemical burning that are the real results of abortion. Only rarely do we confront this actual horror such as in the case of criminal abortionist Kermit Gosnell. 37 years ago, the power of seeing the reality of one child facing death moved the Country to help save her. 157 years ago, we recognized the inhumanity of enslaving 600,000 people in bondage and our forefathers fought a war and changed our laws to make people free . We now need to recognize that 47 years ago, our Courts imposed legalized abortion on America which has destroyed 60,000,000 of our children. The preeminent moral obligation of all governments is to provide for the protection and safety of their people. We must give dominant priority to voting for those who will change our laws to restore the protection of the lives of our smallest children.
I consider myself to be a faithful Catholic. I think that abortion is murder and I cannot tolerate it. I believe that we must vote against a lying adulterous man. I do not believe that voting for a man is also voting for his party’s complete platform. There are many checks and balances to keep such a man from connecting all of his parties platform. We must vote against such a man!
I suggest you study both the Rep. & Dem platforms carefully. One is for life, the other presidential candidate is caught up in a huge scandal with treasonous ramifications, much, much lying, & deviant behavior with pictures, documents, and witnesses. Not just made up, paid for dossiers. The evidence is in our faces. You may not LIKE a particular candidate, or that person’s past actions, but what has the one done for the country in four years, and the other not accomplished in Multiple years.
However voting a particular candidate IS voting that platform & hoping checks and balances will nullify the harm is no better than waving a magic wand. Under eight years of the previous president the country has adopted & legalized sinful behaviors God calls an abomination. That whole party with very few exceptions is all for the depravity.
But the foremost concern is not that the Pope says not to be a single issue voter, it’s what God commands. As we speak the pope is promoting civil unions. Read what God says in 1 Cor 6:18-20. Better yet read the whole chapter. Don’t leave out 1Cor: 6-9. In the end we stand before a Righteous Judge & excuses will not stand. I hope you listen to God.
Thank you, Bishop Stika, for laying it all out for us. Your reflections on these issues are unlikely to be published in the main stream media, but are greatly appreciated by the flock you shepherd.
Pope Francis has stated that we cannot be a one issue religion. We must follow Jesus’s admonition to clothe the naked, feed the poor and take care of the prisoner. Years ago Kingsley Amos wrote a book entitled “Is There Life After Birth?” The key to reducing abortion is to reduce the need not legislation. We need to do a better job of teaching the Faith and supporting those who have gone astray.
Thank you Bishop for your courage and clarity during these partisan times. God bless you!
Thank you for your leadership and your moral clarity on the important issues in this presidential election.
Thank you, Bishop Stika, for having the courage to speak the complete truth in our current culture! If only all of the bishops and priests could muster this kind of courage!
This should be read in every parish during the next two weeks. Thank you for your strong words Bishop Stika.
Fran and Francis Brown, OLOF, Alcoa, TN
Thank You ! We are voting for Trump/Pence.
As you said not for the person but for the stances they take against abortion and they are not ashamed, or apologetic in saying they are against abortion.
Thank You for your clarity on these issues!
Trump / Pence 2020
Fascism is in the ballot with the Trump Administration advocating for more. Also, I believe that any member of the clergy especially a bishop needs to keep their personal political viewpoints to themselves. If they do not then they are in effect placing the Catholic Church into the political meaning secular world thus impinging on the concept of the separation of Church and state.
The clergy have the obligation to speak out regarding faith and morals.
The clergy are admitting that they have not done an adequate job of teaching the Faith. If they had, there would be no need for abortions. They are now closing the stall after the horse has left.
Show one fascist item in the republican platform. One. You can claim this, but it doesn’t make it true. There is no separation of church and state, just the establishment of a official religion.
This should be read in every parish the next two weeks. Thank you for your concern Bishop Stika.
Thank you for providing strong and clear direction. I had a similar discussion with another Catholic who expressed support for climate change, post office, immigration, abortion, and other issues. I told her I supported those issues too. However, on a scale of 1-10, right to life/abortion issues were an 11. All other items were a 5 or below. I am an old school Democrat still believing in the vision that JF Kennedy spoke in his 1961 inaugural address. But that party has changed to something I can’t support anymore.
Bishop Sticka, thank you for having the courage to speak up and guide all of us. We appreciate this and support you. I have passed this on to my family and friends that live out-of-state as well.
Very insightful, thoughtful and well presented. Indeed life itself is thee pre-eminent issue and right. All other rights are moot without life itself. I would not want to be on the wrong side of this issue on my judgement day.
Thank you, Your Excellency!!!
We very much agree with, and appreciate your well-reasoned, convincingly and eloquently stated message regarding this critically important matter.
We are stymied as to why so very few Catholic clergy take their teaching and pastoral responsibilities as seriously as you have here. Further, we find it absolutely abhorrent that several very senior members of the episcopate espouse a view contrary to Church Teaching.
Accordingly, we would strongly encourage you to forcefully and publically lend your support to like-minded and courageous clergy such as Cardinal Burke, Archbishop Vigano, Bishop (not Cardinal) Tobin, Bishop Strickland and Father Altman as well as Dr. Taylor Marshall and (ahem) Michael Voris.
COL Joe & Maureen Corry
May God bless and keep you, Bishop Stika. These words must be repeated over and over again until
they penetrate the hearts and minds of all. This is a very clear analysis of the situation we are in now.
All life matters including the lives of unborn humans.
Although I live in Florida, not in Knoxville, I am a published historian with two doctoral degrees who applauds the bishop’s historical analysis. It is outstanding! I have just written to the leader of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Wenski, urging him to follow Bishop Stika’s courageous, clear, and insightful considerations. The African American community has been particularly hard hit by abortion. Abortion is racist and ALL BLACK LIVES MATTER. Bishop Stika is a light to all of us in the U.S. The people of the Diocese of Knoxville are blessed to have him. Thank you for your manly defense of our children both here and abroad. May God shower His blessings on you.
Thank you and God bless you, Bishop Stika. I have been praying for guidance for who to vote for since no one party’s platform is consistent with my position on major issues. I believe my prayers have been answered with your anaysis of abortion as a “pre-eminent moral issue”. I will vote the Trump/Pense ticket and pray fervantly that hearts are transformed on this issue; and that our nation’s divisiveness is replaced and guided by the Fruit of the Holy Spirit.
I totally agree abortion is murdering the innocent unborn of our land. There I can not vote for Biden. HOWEVER … I do believe that Trump is a wolf in sheep’s clothes. I believe he will fight anyone and anything, say anything to keep himself in office. Trump has some very serious mental health issues. Friends I have from Germany as children, have said he is like Hitler was.
I simply can not place my vote for either Biden or Trump.
Knowing this makes me sick … but there it is. Morally I can not vote for either one.
Thanks, Bishop, for your powerful statement of what should matter to us as Catholics…we are with you!
Every Catholic needs to read this! Thank you, Bishop Stika, for taking this on and addressing issues that many of our clergy are reluctant to speak about. I will forward this to numerous people who are reluctant to know their faith!
Too late’ I already voted the Republicn ticket!
I vote for issues. The Bishop is on point!
On this day, when the Holy Father so courageously showed why he is God’s anointed, these machinations from the American bishops ring so hollow.
No Democrat has called for more abortions, none have herded unwilling expectant mothers into train cars, none have laid the whip to their backs to force them through a clinic door. They have done no more than ask women be given autonomy over their persons, the natural autonomy the Founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment. Yet you, in your zeal to justify your vote for a beast who this very day set another federal execution date, who ripped babies from their mothers’ breasts and who has torn this nation asunder, would call them Nazis and plantation owners.
No Democrat has placed believers in stocks, no tongues have been cut out, no Christian has been denied a pulpit. Yet you would have them also profit from their speech out of the public coffers. The First Amendment does not enshrine government largess. It enshrines the right to be heard.
How many babies will be silently smothered, die of starvation and be murdered by corporate militias in their home countries because their mothers are too scared that those babies will be taken from them if they try to come to this country?
How many LGBTQ patients will be turned away at Catholic hospital emergency rooms?
The choice of life is not the vote you’ve ordered, nor is the choice of religious freedom
You’ve ordered a vote for executions, a vote for the death of the helpless in impoverished countries, a vote for those people who would profit from our tax dollars for discriminating against the people who are paying those taxes.
You would do yourself and the Church better by your silence than you have by your rationalization.
Peace be with you.
We are so proud of Bishop Stika for defending the unborn and supporting life.
There’s no way a Catholic should vote for the democratic party. To do so is to support full term abortion which is a barbaric act. Joe Biden has already been denied the sacraments. A number of senior Catholic clergy are requesting Catholics who support abortion not present themselves for communion.
I have carefully read Bishop Stika’s blog “Before you vote, answer these questions” and the thoughtful comments submitted by readers. I understand his conclusion on why he cannot vote for the Democratic candidate Joe Biden. However, I do not think that his blog should be considered as an endorsement of the Republican candidate, Donald Trump. In fact, using the Bishop’s reasonings and arguments, I conclude that I cannot vote for Donald Trump.
Given IRS 501(c)(3) regulations on charities and churches not getting involved in political endorsements I suspect that the Bishop needed to be very careful in his blog. (https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/charities-churches-and-politics) I am not bound by those regulations so I am freely able to mention political parties and candidates.
There is much debate among political scientists and historians about the relevancy of party platforms so I will let those folks argue over whether Bishop Stika’s opening thesis, “When we vote, we are not voting for the candidate but for the party platform and all within it” is accurate. I believe that in this election one cannot separate a vote for Trump from all of his mannerisms, actions and his personality.
Bishop Stika challenges us with “Questions God Asks.” Perhaps the Bishop has better connections than I do but I didn’t call upon as high of an authority. I asked myself if I could teach about the Ten Commandments to children and then explain to them how I could vote for Trump.
“You shall not kill.” Bishop Stika encourages us to read the Republican Party Platform. (He mentions that the Republican Party did not update its platform in 2020.) On Page 40 of the 2016 Republican Party Platform we find “The constitutionality of the death penalty is firmly settled by its explicit mention in the Fifth Amendment. With the murder rate soaring in our great cities, we condemn the Supreme Court’s erosion of the right of the people to enact capital punishment in their states.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church declares that the death penalty is “an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.” Bishop Stika told us at the beginning of his blog that we are voting not for a candidate but for the party platform and “all within it.” What about what is not in the platform? The Republican Party platform addresses capital punishment in states. The platform doesn’t address federal capital punishment. As recently as September 22, 2020, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued condemnations of the Trump administration for restarting federal executions.
“In the last 60 years, before the Trump administration restarted federal executions, there were only four federal executions. Since July, there have been five, which is already more federal executions than were carried out in any year in the last century. There are two more federal executions scheduled this week.
After the first murder recorded in the Bible, God did not end Cain’s life, but rather preserved it, warning others not to kill Cain (Gn. 4:15). As the Church, we must give concrete help to victims of violence, and we must encourage the rehabilitation and restoration of those who commit violence. Accountability and legitimate punishment are a part of this process. Responsibility for harm is necessary if healing is to occur and can be instrumental in protecting society, but executions are completely unnecessary and unacceptable, as Popes St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis have all articulated.
We say to President Trump and Attorney General Barr: Enough. Stop these executions.”
“You shall not commit adultery.” I would get squeamish talking to children about this commandment. Mr. Trump has been married three times. He bragged about sexually assaulting women. Enough said. In his summary Bishop Stika ties together the sanctity of marriage and the family, “for what harms the family, harms society.” Although not mentioned in the 2016 Republican Party Platform, one of Trump’s solutions to the complex problem of immigration reform was to separate children from their parents at the border and place them in cages. We learned this past week that there are still approximately 500 children separated from their families and those families cannot be found by the Trump administration. When questioned this week during the Presidential debate, Trump replied, “they are so well taken care of.”
I consider access to affordable health care to be a family value. While campaigning in 2016 Trump promised us “great” health care insurance reform. The 2016 Republican Party Platform calls for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. During Trump’s first two years in office his party controlled the White House and Congress. We did not get the great reform he promised. In a few weeks the Supreme Court will hear challenges to the Affordable Care Act. The Trump administration will encourage the Supreme Court to declare the entire Act to be unconstitutional. If the Act is thrown out, gone will be the protections for the millions of Americans who have pre-existing conditions. Trump has said that pre-existing conditions will be protected. How? There is no legislation in place for that. In fact, if you look again to the 2016 Republican Party Platform you will see how the Republican Party views pre-existing conditions. “We believe that individuals with preexisting conditions who maintain continuous coverage should be protected from discrimination.” Like many of you I received health care coverage from my employer and I am grateful for that. However, during these trying economic times brought on by the pandemic, I am a pink-slip away from losing my employer-provided health care coverage. Unlike priests and federal judges, not many of us have guaranteed lifetime employment. Without real legislation in place a loss in employment will strike a family economically and could possibly leave them with no ability to obtain affordable health care coverage if there are pre-existing conditions.
“You shall not steal.” In the 2016 Presidential Debates Trump alluded to some of his “brilliant” business transactions where he used suits to avoid paying some bills. On the other hand there are many contractors who claim they were cheated by Trump. I’ll let the courts settle these suits but we can look to the Catechism at paragraph 2410 in the discussion points about this commandment that are relevant to Trump’s business transactions, “Promises must be kept and contracts strictly observed to the extent that the commitments made in them are morally just. A significant part of economic and social life depends on the honoring of contracts between physical or moral persons – commercial contracts of purchase or sale, rental or labor contracts. All contracts must be agreed to and executed in good faith.
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” This commandment is easy for the children to grasp — it’s about lying. From paragraphs 2482 and 2483 of the Catechism, “A lie consists in speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving. The Lord denounces lying as the work of the devil: ‘You are of your father the devil, . . . there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.’ Lying is the most direct offense against the truth. To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead someone into error. By injuring man’s relation to truth and to his neighbor, a lie offends against the fundamental relation of man and of his word to the Lord.” As president, Trump’s lies began in the first days of his presidency with a silly, petty claim that his inauguration was the most attended in history. That’s where we learned the term “alternative facts.” His lies become much more serious to our well-being when we think about his response to the emerging pandemic. He lied to the American public about the seriousness of the coronavirus. He claimed he didn’t want to cause panic. The American people did not panic after Pearl Harbor and WWII; the American people did not panic after 9/11. The American people want and deserve to know the truth. Even now he’s telling us that we are “turning the corner” on the pandemic. What “alternative facts” is he using to justify that claim? The Catechism addresses these serious lies in paragraph 2484, “The gravity of a lie is measured against the nature of the truth it deforms, the circumstances, the intentions of the one who lies, and the harm suffered by its victims. If a lie in itself only constitutes a venial sin, it becomes mortal when it does grave injury to the virtues of justice and charity.”
In my simple-minded test on teaching about the Ten Commandments to children, I conclude that I could not justify a vote for Trump to the children. With a basic understanding of the Ten Commandments and the Catechism they would see through the holes in any argument that I could try to present to them about a favorable vote for Trump.
Readers who have made it this far in my ramblings and agree with my conclusion may wonder about their vote. You could consider a third-party candidate. You could consider a write-in vote. You could consider not voting for president. But isn’t a vote not for Trump a vote for Biden? We return to Bishop Stika’s blog when he addresses Ends and Means: “… in discerning our choices in life—’do good and avoid evil,’ and ‘the end does not justify the means.’ Together, these basic truths remind us that no matter how good the end is that we desire, good intentions can never excuse the use of evil means in attaining them. Such is the lens we must use to approach the moral act of voting.” We have had plenty of time over the past four years to see that Trump is not suitable to be President of the United States. We should have demanded for a candidate who is decent, honest, and pro-life and pro-family.
Why I Cannot Vote For Trump I cannot vote for a man who supports the death penalty. Every Sunday morning at the Cathedral during the Prayers of the Faithful, the Faithful pray for the safety of members of the military. I cannot vote for a man who calls members of the military “losers” and “suckers.” I cannot vote for a man who lies, steals and whose actions and words attack the sanctity of marriage and the family. I cannot vote for a man who calls those who don’t agree with him “idiots”, “disasters”, and other names — he denigrates the Office of the Presidency and all accepted norms of decency and respect. I cannot vote for a man who pushes people out of a park who are exercising their US Constitutional rights so that he can, as if he were some king, wave The Bible in front of a church for a photo-op, “for it is the Lord God who is the true King and Ruler that governments and LEADERS should pattern their manner of governing after”.
The Republican party is Pro life in only a handful of meaningful ways, willfully and repeatedly ignoring what it means to be authentically pro life from “womb to the tomb” in their lack of proper funding of healthcare, housing, nutrition, etc. As long as they neglect these areas to any meaningful extent there will always be a solid percentage of pro life Catholics who will continue to vote Democratic in order to rectify the near abhorrent situations the poor, disabled and elderly are forced to endure in certain States and Regions of this Nation. While I did not vote Biden for President due to His age and what seems to be obvious neurological deterioration, and because I do not consider His Vice President nominee to be qualified or experienced enough in foreign policy, etc. to be assuming power due to His disability which I think would come to pass if their ticket prevails, I did vote Democratic for Senate and local offices since whenever they fall under Republican leadership in my State, any meaningful notion of “pro life” policies that are actually within our power as a state to fund and fix are rescinded or not attended to. I think there is a bit of naiveté by many people as to not realizing what it means to be a Republican in Iowa is not what it means to be one in Florida or Texas, and what it means to be a Democrat in New York is not what it means to be one in Nevada or Oregon. We really aren’t the “United” States to the extent that many who lack critical thinking skills assume we are, and our regional and cultural differences play a bigger part in how being either a Republican or Democrat is expressed in our areas and how we perceive to be the best way to solve the same problem from one state to another. Granted, if one does not first make it out of the womb, the rest is irrelevant, but until the Republican Party becomes truly pro life, as long as many of us see children and elderly people going hungry, without medications and without even winter coats to wear when it’s freezing out in our own neighborhoods we will continue in good conscience to vote for Democratic officials who are the only ones who make any attempt to rectify these issues, and I must say in many cases to an excellent job of it. In the end of it? The true guilt of why abortion has lingered for so long in this country falls squarely on the Republican party, NOT the Democratic. If the Republican Party had truly been a “pro life” ticket from womb to tomb, we wouldn’t have so many women in a position to feel pressured to abort to begin with, and then at the ballot box people like yourself and I could actually vote for them. For all the self righteous condemnation of Democratic officials, they really fail to see how many of them are just another Pilate trying to wash their hands claiming their innocent of the blood of the murdered, all the while standing by election after election and when in office failing to enact true pro life legislation to win Democratic pro life voters who are put in the position we are in every election cycle. They truly don’t see how their just as complicit in this continuing as the people them blame. And that such naiveite should come from so many well meaning but duped clerics who truly should have a clearer vision as to why this problem has lingered so long is astounding God bless you.
Bishop Stika, I would note that the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has provided a very comprehensive teaching document for Catholics in the United States: “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” (https://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/forming-consciences-for-faithful-citizenship-title). It is a very “fair and balanced” (as they say) approach to a number of issues. All Catholics should read it to form their conscience before casting their vote.
There are a number of priests (and some bishops) who would have us believe that you cannot vote according to your conscience. This is not the teaching of the Church, however. As for political platforms, there is only one platform that claims our ultimate loyalty: the Gospel. As Catholics, we should evaluate party platforms – in their entirety, and not just one issue – in light of the Gospel. All to often, we do it the other way around.
In 1987, an an 18 month-old baby girl fell into an abandoned well in Texas and was trapped 20 feet down. For 3 days, the Nation was riveted to heroic efforts to save “Baby Jessica” as millions prayed and dozens worked around the clock to save her. One reason that we all rallied to save her was the we SAW the image of her peril and knew she would die if the rescue failed. The life of that 1 small child was precious to the whole Country. The Nation cheered wildly when she was pulled from the well, the life of one child saved. Conversely, one cause of the abortion plague is that we DON’T SEE the horrors of dismemberment or chemical burning that are used in the procedures. Only rarely do we actually confront the lethal bodily results such as in the case of abortionist Kermit Gosnell. The death and carnage from abortion goes almost totally unseen. 37 years ago, the power of the image of one child facing death moved the whole Country to save her. 157 years ago, our ancestors recognized the inhumanity of enslaving 600,000 people and fought a war and changed our laws to make people free. We now need to see that 47 years ago, our Courts imposed legalized abortion that has since destroyed 62,000,000 of our Children. The preeminent moral obligation of all governments is to provide protection of life and safety for all their people. It is our dominant obligation as citizens and Christians to vote for those who will change our laws to restore the protection of life to our smallest Children.
Thank you Bishop Stika for speaking out and standing firm to our Catholic faith and tradition. God will reward you!