Wednesday, February 3, 2016

What Every Catholic Needs to Know Before Voting

It's 2016 and the US is rapidly approaching the presidential elections. In case you live under a rock or you just don't follow politics or the news, it all started in Iowa. Iowans began preliminary voting (Ted Cruz won) and the rest of the states will follow until the two major parties each decide on a single front runner. We're told that every vote matters because it really does. So if you're an American citizen and you're not already a registered voter, I very highly recommend registering as soon as possible.

But before you cast your vote, take some time to research the candidates. This year we have tons to choose from and while some have lofty promises like "free college" and others ride on snappy slogans and late night television ads, voting is a responsibility that Catholics need to take more seriously. It's obvious that our current administration won't be taking serious action against Planned Parenthood and while these concerns are fresh in the public mind, now more than ever is the time to vote for a truly Pro-life candidate.

In the most recent Republican debate Chris Christie stated that (if elected president) defunding Planned Parenthood would be his top priority. The moderators then asked if there was anything else that he felt was more pressing or important and, in a shining moment which made me want to stand and cheer, Christie replied he could think of nothing more important than stopping the murder of thousands (and thousands) of children. He was off in his estimates as nearly 1 MILLION American children are aborted every year. Christie was definitely right in stating that there is nothing more important, and as Catholics, the issue of abortion should be the very first one that we consider when choosing a candidate to vote for.

In case you weren't already aware ... it's actually a mortal sin to vote for leaders that are Pro-Choice. By voting for a pro-choice candidate you vote to not only prolong but actively cultivate one of the greatest evils society has ever faced. If you'd like to read more about this, I recommend starting with A Brief Catechism for Catholic Voters


It's probably no surprise that Democrats consistently rank lowest in putting forth Pro-Life candidates. Basically, if you're Catholic and still trying to decide who to vote for, you probably won't find anyone here. All the same, here's a look at the presidential candidates for 2016. 

Bernie Sanders 
Um ... I guess we're supposed to call him a "Democrat" since that's the party he's running with but he's actually a self-professed Socialist or "Democratic Socialist" which is basically a more Cold-War-Friendly way to repackage the same old ideas. You might know him as the really old guy who is promising everyone free college (or if you watch SNL, the guy with only one pair of underpants). Aside from promising everything for free, his biggest platform is basically that he isn't Hillary Clinton. But when it comes to voting Pro-life, his track record is not all that different from hers. He has a solid history of voting to expand the funding of abortion and contraception. In 2012 he claimed "The decision about abortion must remain a decision for the woman, her family and physician to make, not the government." If you'd like to read more about his views on abortion, click here

If we were to grade him on being Catholic-friendly, he gets a big fat F.

Hillary Clinton- (Or as my sister calls her - The Pantsuit Princess) She's basically a walking billboard for the Democratic Party. Or, at least, she was until her recent email scandals (and other failures while working in the Obama Administration). It probably goes without saying but she's not only not Pro-Life, she is actively Pro-Choice and seeks to expand so-called Reproductive Rights whenever the opportunity presents itself. Like Sanders, she has a voting record which is consistently pro-abortion.

If we were to grade her on being Catholic-friendly, she also gets a big fat F


Republicans are a mixed bag this year. All of the candidates are more Pro-Life than Clinton or Sanders but if you're looking for a Pro-Life candidate (and you definitely should be) Conservative doesn't always means Catholic-friendly. In no particular order ...

Donald Trump- Aside from a few controversial comments, Trump plays with his cards close to the vest. He's quick to spout that he "has a plan" to deal with political issues but transparency doesn't seem to be all that important to him. So then, what are his views on abortion and the Right to Life? Well, it's difficult to say. Unlike other candidates, he doesn't have much of a track record to consult since, like Fiorina and Dr. Carson, he has virtually no political experience. But unlike Fiorina and Carson, Trump is quick to dodge a question he doesn't want to answer. Or, if you publicly embarrass him by mentioning his past involvement with the opposing party, to just not show up at all. He's conveniently changed his stance (just in time for elections!) So, while he now claims to have seen the light and embarked on an epic journey of conversion to Conservative family values, you can't blame America for being skeptical. While we are overjoyed at the thought that he would leave the Dark Side, his song and dance touting his new-found dedication to being Pro-Life is generally not convincing.

Though Trump is well known for being controversial and vocal, so far he's been astoundingly silent on the issues that matter. D-

Ted Cruz - Winner of the Iowa Caucus. Like Trump, Cruz is bold only he comes off as more genuine and actually has the track record to prove that he isn't easily swayed. Cruz seems to place a higher value on government transparency and rather than claiming to "have a plan", he actually tells the American people exactly what it is (usually in the form of "check out my website" but at least he makes the effort). Cruz is a staunch Conservative who sees no shame in connecting his political views with his religious beliefs (not complaining). If you'd like to read more about his views, click here

When it comes to being Pro-Life, Cruz gets a pretty solid A. 

Marco Rubio - He's running at a strong # 3 for the Republican party- just barely behind Trump in Iowa. He's been under heat for allegedly changing his stance on immigration (he claims he has been consistent and that others have misunderstood him). Rubio comes from a middle class background with parents who were immigrants. Like many in the GOP, his platform includes strong Family Values. Rubio claims he is Pro-Life but still understands that Women's Rights are currently the Law of the Land. Given the opportunity to limit abortion he has had a firm stance and repeatedly votes Pro-Life so his track record certainly seems to uphold his claims. The only concern some Catholics may have is that he will be too passive when it comes to backing legislation reform and the fight to not only defund Planned Parenthood, but to also overturn Roe vs. Wade - the 1973 Supreme Court case which resulted in the legalization of abortion in the US. On the other hand, Rubio's more moderate approach and willingness to reach across the aisle may be our best hope for actually getting things done. Really, it could go either way. To read more about his views on abortion, click here.    

His solid track record proves he really means it when he says he's Pro-Life, Rubio gets an A-/A 

Ben Carson - You might know him as the doctor or the guy Healing Hands (the 2009 film staring Cuba Gooding Jr.) is based on. Carson generally appears soft spoken and non-confrontational. There's no doubt that he's an intelligent man but many are seriously concerned about whether he would be willing to take the heat which inevitably accompanies a firm Pro-Life stance. And speaking of his stance on Life, he's been decidedly passive. Though he claims he would like to see more restrictions placed on abortion, he advocates the administration of abortafacients in "exception" cases. Carson seems to believe that overturning Roe vs. Wade would be "ideal" but he seems to lack faith in our ability to actually do it. If you'd like to read more about his views, click here

Of course, Carson is not a politician so he has no track record to consult which made it difficult for us to weigh against his campaign promises. So, for being anti-abortion but not fully Pro-Life, Dr. Carson gets a C

Chris Christie - Chris Christie (or as a family friend calls him, "the Jersey dough boy") has done a fantastic job lately. Unfortunately, so has pretty much everyone else in the GOP so it has been difficult for him to really shine through. It's no secret that he has caught some slack for his weight (weird - considering most Americans are, themselves, overweight). He speaks well and, in the debates, has really held his own - answering tough questions on national security and deflecting accusations right and left. If there was any confusion concerning Christie's Pro-Life beliefs, he laid them to rest at the Iowa debates. What you might not know about him is that he is Catholic (as are Rubio, Santorum, and Bush). I can't vouch that he is practicing or even that he's in full communion with the Church but one thing is for certain, no matter where he stands, he makes an infinitely better Catholic than Joe Biden or Nancy Pelosi- admittedly not a hard thing to do.  

Chris Christie is Pro-Life and not afraid to be vocal about it. For this and his strong record, he gets high marks: A+. 

Carly Fiorina - As the only Republican woman running for president in the 2016 elections, she kind of stands out. You might know her as the former CEO or the lady that's always trash talking Hillary (also memorable attributes). What you might not know is that, while others were campaigning or facing potential snow-ins, she was the only presidential candidate to attend the 2016 Walk For Life in Washington DC. But don't let this get your hopes up. Her record reveals she has a more complex stance on abortion than you might assume. Like Carson, she seeks to lessen abortion in the US but with "exceptions". She's definitely a better candidate than Clinton but, luckily, we still have other more Pro-Life Conservatives to choose from. 

So, for being a vocal advocate for the Pro-Life movement but being more liberal in her interpretation of Rights to Life, we give her a B.

PLEASE NOTE: Rick Santorum dropped out of the race earlier today and has apparently chosen to back Rubio. I chose to leave his information because he deserves to be a household name and I wanted to provide  information on him all the same. This isn't the first time he's run for the executive office and I doubt it will be his last.

Rick Santorum -  Santorum has been a true crusader for Life. Of course, if you follow the Pro-Life movement, you probably already know that. His views were recently under fire at the Iowa debates but it was quickly laid to rest when Fiorina spoke up on his behalf. When it comes to abortion, Santorum doesn't stand for special exceptions or "only in the case of" certain circumstances. He doesn't just seek to defund Planned Parenthood, he actively seeks to overturn Roe v Wade which he openly claims there is no constitutional basis for. Santorum wrote legislation to outlaw Partial Birth Abortion. He opposes fetal stem cell research and human cloning. You can read more about his views here
For his rock-solid track record and across the board Pro-Life beliefs, Santorum gets an A++

John Kasich - If you've been following the debates you might know him as the guy from Ohio. What you might not know is that Ohio has been working to defund Planned Parenthood and like several other Conservative candidates, it's a cause that Kasich stands behind. He also voted to ban partial birth abortion.Unfortunately, he believes it is "reasonable" to include exceptions in the case of rape and incest.  To read more about John Kasich's views, click here. (Did I mention he's from Ohio?)

Yet another "except special circumstances" Pro-Lifer, Kasich's lack of dedication to all Pro-Life beliefs places him in conflict with the teachings of the Holy Mother Church. For this reason, he gets a C.

Jeb Bush- He obviously comes from the Bush family and therefore doesn't need much of an introduction. He's softer on Pro-Life issues than many of the other candidates but he was definitely a hard one to call. Of course you can decide for yourself after reading his views here but we felt it best to go with a B- /C+

I'll admit - This was a rather long article and I got a bit lazy with hyperlinks so for anyone I neglected to cover or post a link for, check out OnTheIssues.Org.  Please do your homework and choose responsibly.

A special thanks to my sister Jordan who has been following everything very passionately and who helped me decide on a rating for each candidate.