Democrats "For Life"

In many ways, I am a natural Democrat. I do not have a problem, in principle, with large government or higher taxes that increase wealth distribution. I was against the War in Iraq. I favor amnesty for illegal immigrants (or at least I favored many of the plans we were assured were  ‘not amnesty,’ which looked a lot like amnesty). I favor health care reform, including higher taxes, as long as the policies in question have a strong empirical foundation. While I have concerns about taking on large amounts of debt, I do not have a principled objection to the recent stimulus package (provided it actually is a stimulus package).

But I can’t call myself a Democrat.

And this kind of thing is why. Even when we elect ‘pro-life’ Democrats, they turn out to be well, not.

37 Responses to Democrats "For Life"

  • Eric Brown says:

    John Henry,

    One day I won’t disappoint you. I was pro-life, an atheist, and a Democrat and I’ll die pro-life, Catholic, and a Democrat…well the last part is not so certain, but at this point, I can’t see it going the other way.

    Pray for Bob Casey, Jr. I admired him; he has disappointed me in the last year.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    John Henry,

    we can argue about those other things any time….but on this matter…Great post. I may not understand Catholics who lean as you do, but I have a great respect for you not being an apologist for the “party of death” as so many others have done.

  • John Henry says:

    “Maybe you’ll vote for me? I can always be hopeful.”

    Eric – We can both hope that happens. I think the party primaries are the biggest hurdle for a pro-life Democrat (depending on the region).

    Matt – I’ll try and start some arguments on the other topics in the next few weeks.

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    I am a natural Republican as you are a natural Democrat John Henry. Whenever my party has put up a pro-abort against a pro-life Democrat I have unhesitatingly voted for the Democrat. Some issues are much too important for the usual rules of partisan politics to apply.

    Casey the Lesser isn’t even a shadow of his late father, a Democrat I would have voted for in a nanosecond if I had ever had the opportunity.

  • Tito Edwards says:

    I pretty much vote pro-life, so the majority of my votes in all levels of government have gone to the Republican Party. (Of course there’s only so much at certain levels of government that a pro-life politician can enact change)

    With that said, I would vote for an Eric Brown as long as he holds onto a pro-life position.

    Ironically, the majority of my donations have been to the Democratic Party, but those are for pro-life candidates in a faraway state.
    :)

  • Bill Scott says:

    You need to take a look at Democrats for Life of America http://www.democratsforlife.org/ They supported many pro-life Democrats in the last election and helped many of them get elected.

    We need to get the Democratic Party to realize that it does not have to be pro-abortion in order to be different from the Republicans. Just caring about people and the environment is enough to differentiate Democrats from the GOP!

    If enough pro-life Democrats vote and financially support candidates, we can influence the Democratic Party to be more pro-life.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    Bill,

    Did you read the link above? Bob Casey, Jr. is a member of “Democrats for life “. It’s a trojan horse operation.

    just caring about people and the environment is enough to differentiate Democrats from the GOP!

    This kind of ridiculous and baseless assertion is what’s wrong with politics. Just because we don’t think that being on the dole is good for a man, or that we ought to use creation responsibly rather than not at all, doesn’t mean we don’t care for people or the environment.

  • Sidney says:

    Wow! The collection of political stands you support in the name of being a Democrat suggest an inadequate philosophical understanding of where those stands lead.

    You say:

    I do not have a problem, in principle, with large government or higher taxes that increase wealth distribution. I was against the War in Iraq. I favor amnesty for illegal immigrants (or at least I favored many of the plans we were assured were ‘not amnesty,’ which looked a lot like amnesty). I favor health care reform, including higher taxes, as long as the policies in question have a strong empirical foundation. While I have concerns about taking on large amounts of debt, I do not have a principled objection to the recent stimulus package…

    If you believe in liberty, you are a Catholic. If you are a Catholic, you believe in the fundamental dignity of the human person made in the image and likeness of God. You believe in free will, given to the human person by his Creator, and respected by his Creator. Your political views should be in harmony with your faith, which means you will reluctantly accept certain limitations by government on authentic freedom. Those limitations are recognized as privations necessary due to our fallen nature. They are a concession to our sinfulness. Thus, we accept certain limitations on our freedom to support the defense infrastructure that provides collective security from external threats. We support, albeit with deep regret that we must accept the associated loss of liberty, an internal police infrastructure to provide collective security from internal threats.

    Every government act is at the expense of individual liberty. No true Catholic can support increased government, but he sometimes must accept it. Taxation is the taking of something from one person and giving it to another person. Government cannot make anything, only take and redistribute. The sharing of personal goods described in the Book of the Acts is voluntary. It is an act of charity, not force. When members of the group try to participate in the group but seek a special advantage (Annanias and Saphira), they demonstrate economic rent-seeking and pay for their dishonesty with their lives. So no thinking Catholic can support socialistic approaches to the problems of our fallen world. Go read Rerun Novarum and other writings of the latter part of the 19th century to learn how the Magisterium clearly explained the proper response to modern political structures. When those political institutions conflict with human dignity and liberty, they are to be opposed.

    Jesus tells us to to obey the laws and the governors of the land. Obeying the law is not in conflict with charity, so you are not against poor Mexicans if you oppose amnesty for illegal aliens. The problem with amnesty for illegal aliens is the problem with amnesty generally. Why should it be granted for these lawbreakers and not granted for all lawbreakers at all times? This past week, we got a new Secretary of the Treasury because we granted him amnesty from his tax cheating a few years ago. When you are in trouble with the tax authorities, will you be able to mention Timothy Geithner? Or Charlie Rangel, another tax cheat who was granted amnesty?

    As a Catholic, you are not limited to empiricism. On an empirical basis, Jesus Christ was either a nut or a dangerous rabble-rouser. As the high priest said, it was expedient to have him put to death. We know, however, Jesus Christ was the Way. We know that what looks like bread and wine is truly the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, despite the empirical evidence to the contrary.

    When a Catholic looks at health care reform, he should look at it in terms of freedom and charity. Catholic hospitals offered real health care to people in need before the government inserted itself in the industry. Perhaps the most Catholic reform of health care is to remove the government so that people are free to be charitable with their time and money. Taxation of every kind and regardless of the stated purpose, is a loss of freedom which should be opposed at all times and in all places by Catholics.

    Regarding political party affliliation, there is no Catholic party. Christians, Catholic or otherwise, must know their faith and the political posture most consistent with their faith. Then they must find the political party with the principles most consistent with their faith. At times over the course of American history, the pro-freedom party has changed names. Likewise, the pro-life party. In the most recent decade, one could argue that outside the issue of abortion, there has been little difference between the Republicans and the Democrats. Both parties have been quick to take your money and your freedom, though the details have differed a bit.

    Catholics who want to participate in the political process will have to determine their priority. Is their faith the primary lens through which they view the world, or is it politics? If it is the former, there is no easy political affiliation. If it is the latter, perhaps they are not as Catholic as they claim.

  • One day I won’t disappoint you. I was pro-life, an atheist, and a Democrat and I’ll die pro-life, Catholic, and a Democrat…well the last part is not so certain, but at this point, I can’t see it going the other way.

    If you land yourself on a ballot over here in Williamson County, let me know and I’ll sign up for Republicans For Brown — we may not agree on other issues, but serious pro-life Catholicism deserves some solidarity.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    Michael,

    John Henry is correct of course, but no matter what you want to include in pro-life…. he does not vote PRO-ABORTION as all of the Catholics supporting Obama did.

    Love to hear your response to Abp. Burke…

  • John Henry says:

    Matt – There is a distinction between voting for a candidate because of a position, and voting for a candidate despite their position. A person votes pro-’something’ when they support a given politician’s policies on that particular issue. A person votes despite-’something’ when they do not. Faithful Catholics supporting Obama did not vote ‘pro-abortion”; they voted for him despite his abortion stance.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    John Henry,

    I’m only using Michael’s own medicine on him. Also, I think in effect my statement is logically consistent.

    Bob votes for Obama
    Obama is Pro-abortion
    therefore Bob in effect voted pro-abortion

    Now, Bob may not have voted for Obama because he is pro-abortion, but the effect is the same.

  • If you consult a dictionary, you’ll find that the definition (common usage) of the term ‘pro-life’ is ‘anti-abortion’.

    I think I discussed this with you over at VN, or somewhere else, but my view is that Catholics should not settle for “common” definitions of terms like “pro-life.” Our understanding of the word is much more broad and inclusive.

    Faithful Catholics supporting Obama did not vote ‘pro-abortion”; they voted for him despite his abortion stance.

    I appreciate you recognizing this and for correcting the erroneous view of Mark McDonald.

    You have the patience of Job.

    I agree.

    Love to hear your response to Abp. Burke…

    I’ll check out the post at some point and perhaps I’ll have something to say about it.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    Michael,

    I think I discussed this with you over at VN, or somewhere else, but my view is that Catholics should not settle for “common” definitions of terms like “pro-life.” Our understanding of the word is much more broad and inclusive.

    If you want to re-define pro-life, it changes nothing. There is no discord between opposing government expansion, a strong defense, and fighting Islamic-fascism that is contrary to the Church’s teaching on a “whole life ethic”, Catholics can have a diversity of opinion on the best way to protect life. What they can’t have is a diversity of opinion on, is whether abortion should be legal or not.

    Faithful Catholics supporting Obama did not vote ‘pro-abortion”; they voted for him despite his abortion stance.

    I know it ties your stomach in knots to hear this Michael, but there is a logical inconsistency to your position. Obama is pro-abortion, you voted for Obama, therefore you voted pro-abortion. At the end of the day, the dead babies are dead because of your vote, that you did not desire it may subjectively mitigate your culpability, but it does not effect your responsibility.

    I’ll check out the post at some point and perhaps I’ll have something to say about it.

    Ya, I guess Abp. Burke, is not really on your RADAR…. Hey. maybe you should have his picture added to the banner over at VN!

  • If you want to re-define pro-life, it changes nothing.

    I’m not suggesting we “redefine” what pro-life means. I’m suggesting we Catholics understand the perm pro-life in the Catholic sense of the word, not according to the definitions of the u.s. culture wars or the republican party.

    Obama is pro-abortion, you voted for Obama, therefore you voted pro-abortion.

    George W. Bush was in favor of abortion in the cases of rape and incest and to protect the life of the mother. According to your logic, you voted both pro-life and pro-choice. You also voted for a war that the Church opposes and you voted in favor of torture which is an intrinsic evil. Are you willing to say that you voted pro-torture? (Perhaps you actually ARE pro-torture. Would not be surprised.)

    At the end of the day, the dead babies are dead because of your vote, that you did not desire it may subjectively mitigate your culpability, but it does not effect your responsibility.

    Dead babies are not dead because of my vote. They are dead because they were aborted by particular human beings. Look, I am well aware of my culpability on the issues of abortion, war etc. Of course I’m responsible, but not because of a particular vote, but because I am an american citizen. You, too, are responsible for abortion.

    Ya, I guess Abp. Burke, is not really on your RADAR…

    Ecclesial matters of various kinds are “on my radar.”

    Hey. maybe you should have his picture added to the banner over at VN!

    Email us with your suggestion.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    Michael J. Iafrate,
    George W. Bush was in favor of abortion in the cases of rape and incest and to protect the life of the mother. According to your logic, you voted both pro-life and pro-choice.

    Now, I’ll first say that I did not vote as I am not yet a US Citizen. However, I will take the criticism because I publicly supported George Bush. Yes, in effect I did “vote” pro-life and pro-choice. And given the disproportionately pro-abortion stance of the alternatives, this is permitted under moral law.

    You also voted for a war that the Church opposes

    No, that war was not envisioned in 2000, and was already a ‘fait accomplit’ in November 2003, furthermore, the “Church” did not oppose it, various bishops and the pope, carefully speaking to allow a diversity of opinion, and without the knowledge possessed by the political leaders did oppose it.

    and you voted in favor of torture which is an intrinsic evil. Are you willing to say that you voted pro-torture? (Perhaps you actually ARE pro-torture. Would not be surprised.)

    No, I did not vote for torture, because I am not aware of any practices, authorized by the Bush administration would be considered torture, nor is torture intrinsically evil.

    At the end of the day, the dead babies are dead because of your vote, that you did not desire it may subjectively mitigate your culpability, but it does not effect your responsibility.

    Dead babies are not dead because of my vote. They are dead because they were aborted by particular human beings. Look, I am well aware of my culpability on the issues of abortion, war etc. Of course I’m responsible, but not because of a particular vote, but because I am an American citizen. You, too, are responsible for abortion.

    Obama’s policies will fund abortions, he is responsible for them…. and so are you…. because you supported him. Of course, all Americans to a more remote extent bear some responsibility… if they haven’t done everything in their power to stop abortion…

  • No, I did not vote for torture, because I am not aware of any practices, authorized by the Bush administration would be considered torture,

    Have you been living under a rock?

    …nor is torture intrinsically evil.

    Your Church teaches that it is.

  • Mark DeFrancisis says:

    Matt,

    There is a culture of death that pervades America, and we all are responsible.

    The factors that lead into the degradation–if not utter destruction– of human life are many, and, rather than attempt to divide and determine degrees of individual or group responsibility, we are called to do otherise. This is especiallly so in the area of voting, which is much more complex than you surmise and only a fraction of what responsible citizenship involves/entails.

    In our having been claimed be Christ, we are called to take on Christ’s features and his love, embracing to Cross as THE example of how to counter death with life; hatred with charity; division with communio.

    Abortion, war, torture and economic exploitation will not end through a finger-pointing blame-game, but only with the LOVE which is capable of transforming all, a love that takes on ALL as though it were its responsibility alone.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    Michael,

    Matt: No, I did not vote for torture, because I am not aware of any practices, authorized by the Bush administration would be considered torture,

    Michael: Have you been living under a rock?

    Have you? Demonstrate otherwise.

    Matt:…nor is torture intrinsically evil.

    Michael: Your Church teaches that it is.

    Not. I’ve demonstrated this is not true, at least not definitively, no point in rehashing it.

    By the way, you are bringing up lesser issues as if to treat them on the same level as abortion and euthanasia… dangerous territory.

  • Felice says:

    Wow! The collection of political stands you support in the name of being a Democrat suggest an inadequate philosophical understanding of where those stands lead.

    Excellent post, Sidney. John Henry’s stated positions on these particualr issues are diametrically opposed to Catholicism and the teachings of Christ. They simply can’t be honestly reconciled.

  • John Henry says:

    Well, now that I’ve been accused of having ‘an inadequate philosophical understanding’ of my own positions, of supporting policies ‘no thinking Catholic can support,’ and being ‘not as Catholic as I claim’ by Sidney, and of holding positions ‘diametrically opposed to Catholicism’ that ‘can’t be honestly reconciled,’ by Felice, I suppose I’ll have to respond at some point to some of the criticisms articulated above. But this post was not intended as a defense (or even a discussion) of those positions, and so that will have to wait.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    John Henry,

    But this post was not intended as a defense (or even a discussion) of those positions, and so that will have to wait.

    that’s what I thought too, as tempting as it was to take a potshot.

  • j. christian says:

    This question is directed mostly at Michael and Mark, since they seem to represent the Catholics who have found “grave reasons” to vote for a pro-abortion candidate. Please know that I’m sincerely trying to understand how you came to this position.

    First, let me say that I *do* understand your premise, that being pro-life entails much more than simply being anti-abortion. Was it Barney Frank who made the (unfair, I think) remark that being pro-life means believing the right to life begins at conception and ends at birth? This is obviously a straw man. But it’s true that there’s a disconnect in the pro-life cause if we are anti-abortion and simultaneously callous about other forms of killing that are at best negligent about taking human life or at worst deliberately unjust about it.

    Having said that, let’s throw out a hypothetical example. Forget abortion for a moment, and let’s say that your ideal candidate is a guy like Obama in every way, except he supports policies of infanticide. He says it should be legal for women to kill their newborns within the first several weeks of life or so, if they’re too much of a burden. Not only that, but the best statistics we have show that about 3,000 or so mothers decide to act on this policy every day. My question is, do you still vote for this guy because he opposes the Iraq war, etc.?

    I doubt there’d be many voters at all for such a person. That’s because the vast majority of Americans have a disconnect about life inside and outside the womb… *But Michael and Mark, we’re not ‘most Americans.’* We’re Catholic, and we know better. We realize abortion for what it is, and we don’t make the qualitative distinctions and equivocations that most of unthinking Americans make about this issue. So we see it as 3,000 innocent lives taken unjustly every day. Are we at least in agreement on this point, or do you see a qualitative difference?

    Continuing: I also realize that the pro-life calculus is not simply a numbers game, a matter of weighing “which policy kills more?” If every life is sacred, then obviously *any* unjust killing is a sin in the eyes of God. Even though it’s not simply a numbers game, the mere fact of magnitude and proportionality *must* enter into the equation somehow, right? What would be the “grave reason” to vote for someone when the numbers aren’t even in the same order of magnitude?

    There is dispute in the numbers, of course. I don’t believe for a second the “hundreds of thousands” of innocents killed in Iraq. Look at the civil war in Sri Lanka, which has raged in densely populated areas for more than 25 years… Even in that country, which is only slightly less populous than Iraq, you don’t see more than 100,000 killed, civilian and military combined. It doesn’t pass the smell test at all. This is not to question your opposition to the Iraq War or to say that no innocents have died as a result, but I think it’s fair to claim that the numbers just don’t add up. And even if they did, we’d still be far behind the abortion numbers.

    Again, please understand why so many of us are confused. The premise you claim is a valid one, but the actual reality of doesn’t bear out. I think that’s why it’s so troubling. No one — religious or not — would vote for a guy advocating a 3,000 infant-a-day murder spree. No one.

    Why you, then?

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    “Well, now that I’ve been accused of having ‘an inadequate philosophical understanding’ of my own positions, of supporting policies ‘no thinking Catholic can support,’ and being ‘not as Catholic as I claim’ by Sidney, and of holding positions ‘diametrically opposed to Catholicism’ that ‘can’t be honestly reconciled,’ by Felice, I suppose I’ll have to respond at some point to some of the criticisms articulated above. But this post was not intended as a defense (or even a discussion) of those positions, and so that will have to wait.”

    I am afraid John Henry that quite a few Catholics, right or left, cannot resist the temptation to attempt to enlist the Church in support of their political positions. I do not doubt their sincerity when they do this. For myself, I think the political issues on which the Church has spoken clearly over time are rather few. I think opposition to abortion is one of those few issues. In regard to most other political issues I try to be careful, as you do I believe, to debate them as political issues and not to contend that the Church mandates that all Catholics adhere to the position I favor.

  • Sidney,

    If you believe in liberty, you are a Catholic. If you are a Catholic, you believe in the fundamental dignity of the human person made in the image and likeness of God. You believe in free will, given to the human person by his Creator, and respected by his Creator. Your political views should be in harmony with your faith, which means you will reluctantly accept certain limitations by government on authentic freedom. Those limitations are recognized as privations necessary due to our fallen nature. They are a concession to our sinfulness. Thus, we accept certain limitations on our freedom to support the defense infrastructure that provides collective security from external threats. We support, albeit with deep regret that we must accept the associated loss of liberty, an internal police infrastructure to provide collective security from internal threats.

    Every government act is at the expense of individual liberty. No true Catholic can support increased government, but he sometimes must accept it. Taxation is the taking of something from one person and giving it to another person. Government cannot make anything, only take and redistribute.

    Though I can generally win “I’m more conservative than you” games, I think you’re dead wrong on this — and indeed not reflecting a conservative approach to authority as the Church has understood it throughout the centuries.

    The key point, to my mind, is the section I’ve highlighted. You’re right, of course, that the human person is made in the image of God and enjoys free will as a part of that innate human dignity. However, I think you go off the tracks when you assert that this means there should be minimal restrictions on free action. Recall that the Church has traditionally taught that freedom consists of being able to do that which is right without being compelled — not being free to do what is wrong. Indeed, John Paul II wrote on several occasions that freedom is freedom to do the good — while sin is enslaving. Or to put it as we used to in the less apologetic days before the 1960s: “Error has no rights.”

    Now this certainly does not mean that we must support an all encompassing state. The demands of human dignity and subsidiarity will leave us plenty of room to prefer local or informal institutions to solve major social needs. But we can’t let ourselves go into a total libertarian free fall of seeing all obligation as evil. Scripture hits an almost terrifying balance on this: Christ and the early Church certainly never forced anyone to give their resources to help others — yet in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, Christ describes someone condemned to everlasting suffering simply for not providing sufficient help to the poor man out doors.

    In the history of the Church, tithing was in most times and places mandatory — and all to often (though I’d tend to see this as an abuse leading to problems) it was combined with taxes to the local lord and all collected at once.

    So while I doubtless agree with you on a preference for smaller and more local institutions, I think it’s important that we remember that this is actually a pretty new thing in the history of the Church. And indeed, our libertarian view of liberty is mostly the result of post-Enlightenment skepticism about our ability to agree as a society on what “the good” is, and thus the insistence that we back off and let everyone define the common good for themselves. It may be a good thing, in a highly morally corrupt society like our own, but it’s not necessarily the ideal, nor is it the only approach that a Catholic can take. Most Catholic rulers in history have done quite the opposite.

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