CatholicVote & Endorsements

The folks of CatholicVote had some objections to my post Tuesday. Brian Burch had this to say in the comment box:

Thanks Michael for your post, though I am compelled to respond and disagree with much of what you and others have written. I do believe that the questions you raise are highly relevant to the conversation occurring within the Church today about the proper role of the laity in public life, and especially American politics. I should also note for those that don’t know, Michael has been, and continues to be, a guest blogger on CatholicVote.org and we continue to welcome his contributions (and disagreements) on our site should he choose to cross post there.

CatholicVote.org was founded specifically to champion the cause of faithful citizenship from a distinctly lay perspective. As such, we seek to serve the Church by assisting the laity with material, catechetical resources, news and commentary, and tools for evangelization (videos, ads, etc) that incorporate an authentic Catholic worldview as applied to our civic life, in pursuit of the common good. To be sure, the issues that involve intrinsic evils, or questions that involve the “non-negotiable” issues are always treated as foundational, and not open to compromise or debate for Catholics. Our programming has almost exclusively been focused on the life issue, for example.

However, it should come as no surprise that Catholic voters are confronted with a host of public policy questions where an authentic Catholic approach to a particular public policy solution is not as easily discernible. Your beef seems to focus on our use of prudence in reading Church teaching, particularly on the issue of subsidiarity, in evaluating and scoring candidates for public office. This is precisely the debate we hoped to spawn, namely, one that involves questions of prudence in the application of this foundational principle of Catholic social teaching to the questions of economic justice, taxes, immigration, health care, and other issues where Catholics in good conscience are permitted to disagree. To your credit, you acknowledge that our scoring analysis makes clear that we make no claim that Church teaching binds Catholics to vote and follow particular policy approaches on these prudential matters. That does not mean, however, that the principles and guidance of the Church should be ignored, or as some here suggest, be kept out of the public square by Catholic groups in the context of specific candidates seeking elected office.

This is precisely where we hope to provide the laity some needed counterweight to the default socialist oriented, government-first, policy prejudices often assumed to be the more authentically “Catholic” position on many issues. We openly acknowledge our reading of Catholic social doctrine to incorporate the principle of subsidiarity in the development of policy prescriptions that seek to bring about the conditions most conducive to the common good. This reading of Church teaching, not altogether novel incidentally, leads us to advocate in many instances a more limited role for the federal government in the governance and control of policies that impact our economy, health care and so forth.

I think it is perfectly defensible to suggest that the Church, particularly since Vatican II, and more recently the public statements from the Holy Father, urge the laity to assume a more active role in this area. Quite frankly, I continue to be disappointed in the reluctance on the part of highly competent Catholics (including many of your readers) to engage these questions head on. This is precisely the function of the laity, whom in many cases possess a level of competence or expertise in various areas (economic policy or health care delivery for example) that may exceed even that of our priests or bishops or, most certainly, the staff of the USCCB. This is in no way intended to slight our bishops, whom we serve and obey without qualification on questions of faith and morals. But it does seem to me of utmost importance that the laity assert their role, apply their insights and expertise in light of the guidance provided by the Church, and most importantly, not be afraid to say that their judgments are informed by Catholic social doctrine and tradtion. Catholic voters in return can more responsibly rely on lay groups such as mine as a place to help formulate and articulate political positions that are shaped and guided by the insights of the Church.

Whether Sharon Angle for example should be supported by Catholics is a highly relevant question, which we unabashedly try to answer. There are some Catholics who may disagree with our judgment, but I find it odd, if not irresponsible, to suggest that Catholic laity (or groups using the word Catholic in their name) should shun such judgments.

Finally, I think it important to propose that Catholics begin to work to overcome the “single-issue voter” critique, as if the Catholics who follow the Church’s teaching on the life issue have nothing further to contribute to the our national political conversation. We have much we can offer, and indeed must learn to articulate the ways in which the life issue is indeed foundational, by and through, our articulation of a Catholic approach to other issues. Socialist Catholic organizations have understood this for years, and have harmed the Church because, unlike you and me, they don’t truly take seriously the non-negotiable issues to begin with.

I have written far to much for a comment box, and I could go on much further, but perhaps I should stop now and allow the discussion to continue. Your post, and the comments by your readers are indeed helpful and thought provoking. Like most here, I hope this conversation, and any success we achieve, contributes in some small way, to the New Evangelization, of which we are all a part. Any grammatical mistakes, spelling errors, or lapses in logic can be blamed on my lack of sleep from Monday night, having attended that glorious upset of the Packers at Soldier Field. Go Bears.

But wait, a few final remarks -

- our questionnaire that must be completed prior to any endorsement is the most extensive questionnaire that I know of. It is not multiple choice, and requires candidates to submit lengthy answers, including an explicit question asking about their opposition to torture;

- those that read into the placement of issues on our website as indicative of the priority we place on these issues are simply looking to cause trouble; if the work we have done, and the commentary provided by Thomas and others on our site has not made plain that we believe the issues of life, marriage, and religious liberty to be foundational, then they I can’t help them.

- Finally, the endorsements on our site do not constitute a comprehensive list of all candidates worthy of an endorsement or Catholic attention; because this is our first public foray with our PAC, we have chosen to keep our “slate” to a limited number of candidates who qualify for our endorsement, and whose races we believe to be significant

Well, there you have it. The head of CatholicVote is a Bears fan, and as I have earlier stated, Bears fans are not Catholics, thus explaining why CV is so misguided ;)

In seriousness, let me respond. Mr. Burch in much of the post is arguing that he is realizing a role of the laity proscribed by the Church. I am not arguing that the laity ought not address things like the economy. Indeed, the Catholic is not a single issue voter. However, the laity must address those things in a particularly Catholic way-this includes using principles of Catholic social teaching and following the guidance of the bishops. What is problematic is for a lay group to then take a particular application and brand it as the Catholic application-which is precisely what CV has done. Even if CV has a proper application (which as MJ points out in the comments for the post, is highly disputable), it is taking on authority CV does not have. CV is not merely carrying out the role of the laity by encouraging debate; CV is also ending the debate, producing a conclusion, and marketing the conclusion as the Catholic conclusion. Even with the disclaimer CV provides, it’s still making endorsements as “CatholicVote.” The confusion by Catholics and non-Catholics alike is perfectly understandable. This is not appropriate, and even the bishops (who have a far greater claim to such authority than Mr. Burch) studiously avoided this approach in the 2008 cycle by seeking only to preach the principles to be applied to the issues and voting process rather than advocating particular approaches.

I think part of the problem too is our interpretation of an endorsement. Endorsements to me are not merely “Candidate x is better than Candidate y, therefore vote for them.” In the last campaign, I argued that McCain made a better vote than Obama, but I refused to endorse him. To endorse is to get enthusiatically behind a candidate-to argue that candidate x fully or almost fully represents one views. To me, almost no candidate in the political arena today can meet that test for the views of an orthodox Catholic, much less the views of the Church herself.

So what Catholic lay groups should do is promote these areas, invite the laity to address them not only with moral principles but the other areas of expertise (such as economics) they possess-but, they should avoid coming to conclusions on matters of prudence as a group. This is a lesson conservative Catholics seemed understand when a whole host of Catholic groups were used against the bishops in the healthcare debate regarding the abortion language. They exercised prudence after all in deciding whether to vote for the bill; if we condemn them for seizing authority from the bishops so too must we condemn groups trying to seize the authority to make prudential judgments in other matters.

At this point, I need to respond to a comment Mr. Burch made:

Quite frankly, I continue to be disappointed in the reluctance on the part of highly competent Catholics (including many of your readers) to engage these questions head on

The idea that TAC and its readers are avoiding this issues while CV is bravely taking them on is “quite frankly” laughable. I will put TAC’s readers and contributors against any Catholic group blog for their willingness to discuss and debate a wide range of issues, including economics. I believe the combination of depth and breadth of the issues we discuss is among the best in the blogosphere. I’m not quite why Mr. Burch thinks TAC is performing poorly in this, but I challenge him to show that CV or anyone else is doing better.

Mr. Burch also accused me of “looking for trouble” by arguing that the position of the issues on the issue pages suggests misplaced priorities. Ok, Mr. Burch. Is the order random? Why is taxes placed in the headlines and abortion near the bottom? Someone made the decision to place it as it is and that person had a reason. What is the reasoning?

Finally, I want address the specifics of CV’s endorsements, particularly why CV would promote Angle over say Rep. Cao. Mr. Burch argues two different arguments in two different places-arguments that when put together, seem to contradict each other.

our questionnaire that must be completed prior to any endorsement is the most extensive questionnaire that I know of. It is not multiple choice, and requires candidates to submit lengthy answers, including an explicit question asking about their opposition to torture;

Finally, the endorsements on our site do not constitute a comprehensive list of all candidates worthy of an endorsement or Catholic attention; because this is our first public foray with our PAC, we have chosen to keep our “slate” to a limited number of candidates who qualify for our endorsement, and whose races we believe to be significant

First he argues (and Joshua Mercer & Thomas Peters both argued this in the combox and on twitter) that Cao & others didn’t get an endorsement b/c he didn’t return the questionnaire; then they argue that they wanted to keep it to a limited slate in important races.

Well, which is it? Did you decide based on who returned the questionnaire or what races were important? Maybe both? And how did you decide which races are important? If one looks at the NYT’s 538 blog to see the different races CV is involved in, it is far from clear how they chose important races. Obviously, Angle’s race against Reid is important in both closeness and national prominence. However, the Democrat CV endorses has a 100% chance to win. The breakdown for the other candidates is as follows:

Schilling -57% chance will lose. Fortenberry-100% win. Fimian 80% lose Mulvaney 58% win. Duffy 79% chance win. Guinta 58% win. Benishek 91% win.

There’s no consistent pattern there. They’ve picked one clear loser (Fimian), one in trouble (schilling, angle), a few close favorites (Mulvaney, Guinta), and a few clear favorites (Fortenbery, Benishek, Duffy, and Lipinski the Democrat). In comparison, Cao is given a 68% chance of losing, which is better than Fimian’s.

So what is an important race? Only CV knows. Perhaps it is important in getting good Catholic candidates to Congress based on the questionnaire. However, that is not on the website. How many people returned the questionnaire? And what did they answer? Mr Burch brags of this awesome, long comprehensive questionnaire, but it’s not online. Why not? Scan it in, and let’s have some information on what these politicians think about issues particularly important to Catholics. I would rather read the questionnaire of Ms. Angle regarding her thoughts on immigration & torture than hear Mr. Burch describe her as “courageous” for saying the blandest pro-life statement imaginable.

Instead what we have is a group endorsing in the name of the Church based on what it thinks are important races based on principles and answers it does not disclose. Such an endorsement is not particularly valuable for a layman trying to discern candidates worthy for donations, votes, etc. nor is valuable for purposes of discussion, as the approach CV took cannot be criticized. To be open to critique means to be open about the factors one used in your process.

The laity must get involved in all issues in order to best represent the wealth of Church teaching. However, doing so requires humility and requires a resistance to being co-opted by the various partisan factions. This is a very difficult task, a task that many Catholics (including myself) have difficulty with when entering the political realm for the first time. Let’s hope that CV with all of its resources eventually learns how bring the lay voice into the political realm through other means than the endorsements it currently employs.

38 Responses to CatholicVote & Endorsements

  • swabdairy says:

    You mean all these years as a Catholic I wasn’t a
    Bear fan? Wow I should really get rid of all the Bears stuff I have. Maybe I should Drink the Greenbay Koolaid. Not!
    Anyway I am glad this is a blog that allows discussion and disagreement in a civil way without name calling. I thank you for your blog but I also appreciate all the help that Catholicvote gives us. Thanks for the blogs and God Bless

  • As the article clearly points out, Green Bay fans are not Catholics either so do not drink that Koolaid. Only those fans of the noble Who Dat Nation, the New Orleans Saints, are living out their call as Catholics to the fullest.

  • RR says:

    This is precisely where we hope to provide the laity some needed counterweight to the default socialist oriented, government-first, policy prejudices often assumed to be the more authentically “Catholic” position on many issues.

    It would be nice if you disclosure your bias on your website. I propose a FaithfulCatholicVoter.org to provide a counterweight to the default anti-solidarity policy prejudices often assumed to be the more authentically “Catholic” position on many issues.

  • T. Shaw says:

    In my hare-brained opinion: the USCCB, the commie-cath (Gospel of St. Marx) social justice crowd, et al have embraced humanism, statism and secular socialism: such that they believe it is a moral imperative to displace the evil, racist, unjust private sector distribution of goods and services with Obama regime rationing by hate-filled, class-envy warrior-bureaucrats.

  • faithful-cath-voter aka T.Shaw says:

    I voted Democrat because I’m more concerned about keeping keep all death row murderers alive than murdering millions of unborn babies by abortion.

  • faithful-cath-voter aka T.Shaw says:

    I voted Democrat because I believe oil companies’ profits of 4% on a gallon of gas are obscene but the government taxing the same gallon of gas at 15% isn’t.

    Stop me . . .

  • In my hare-brained opinion: the USCCB, the commie-cath (Gospel of St. Marx) social justice crowd, et al have embraced humanism, statism and secular socialism: such that they believe it is a moral imperative to displace the evil, racist, unjust private sector distribution of goods and services with Obama regime rationing by hate-filled, class-envy warrior-bureaucrats.

    You clearly have devoted not one second to examining what the USCCB actually has said.

    Stop me . . .

    That I will do quite gladly.

  • MJAndrew says:

    Once, again, Michael you are right on target. It seems to me that the folks from CV who have responded to your post do not really grasp what it is you are arguing, which suggests to me that they are more entrenched in their partisanship and dubious interpretation of subsidiarity than I initially thought. It reminds me of some of the leftist Catholic groups who misunderstand and/or misapply other chief principles of Catholic social thought, such as the dignity of human life and the common good.

  • I don’t think Nate Sliver’s percentage likelihood of winning is the best barometer. It’s true that Lipinski and Fortenberry are in the driver’s seat. But as I mentioned, we are supporting Lipinksi for many of the same reasons you like Cao. And in fact, because he’s a Democrat, that makes it all the more important. Fortenberry is now in the driver’s seat, thanks to the fact that a high-profile challenger (Nebraska’s Lt Gov) opted against a run. If he wins big and has strong support, it will make the case for a strong run against Nelson in 2012.

    A look at the other races:

    Benishek – Larry Sabato and Cook Report both had this at a Toss Up for months and only changed it to Leans R this past week.

    Schilling – Sabato has this as a Likely D race, but Cook now considers this a Toss Up. So opinion on this race varies.

    Duffy – Sabato has this race as a Toss Up.

    Guinta – Sabato has this race as Leans R. Not Likely. So it is competitive.

    Angle – Toss Up.

    Mulvaney – Leans D, but the District has a lot +7 R advantage and DeMint has come out strong for him. So it is winnable.

    Fimian – Leans D (not Likely D as Sliver indicates). The Democrats assailed Fimian’s Catholic faith last cycle. He deserves some Catholic support (and the race is winnable.)

    We think it is good to get Catholics active in supporting good candidates in office.

    Hopefully this will encourage more good citizens to run for office so we can turn things around.

  • Phillip says:

    I don’t think the claiming the USCCB has a specific agenda (whatever that may be) and claiming that is equal to what the bishops think is necessarily the case. One only has to look at the USCCB’s support of Health Care reform (with three objections) and the positions of the Bishops of Denver and Sioux City to understand that they can be quite different.

    The USCCB is made up in large part of laymen who have their own political perspectives. I think it fair to say it is quite liberal in a modern American sense and does not exhaust the possibile options for lay opinion. The USCCB in the past would note that their judgments were THEIR prudential judgments. Not so anymore.

  • Michael, you state that we at CatholicVote are “endorsing in the name of the Church.”

    I think it’s helpful to be more specific about terms. As Americans we sometimes use the words Church and the Bishops interchangeably when obviously in a true sense the terms are distinct.

    We at CatholicVote agree with the Bishops’ that they should not endorse candidates for office. We think having them outline the principles of Catholic teaching is a great role for them. But they think it’s wiser for them to not endorse candidates so as to not divide the flock.

    As a lay Catholic group, representing lay Catholics, we strive to put these principles into action. Not only through further education and lobbying (which the Bishops also do), but also through providing financial support for candidates that we think are worth supporting.

    So I don’t think we claiming to representing the Bishops. But yes, we do hope to be good representatives of the Catholic vote, by which I mean, the Catholic laity, who must ultimately decide who to vote for. The Bishops (rightly) won’t say which candidate to vote for. We come along and suggest that Candidate X is better than Y — we then give our reasons and state that we base this on Catholic teaching. Some of our conclusions are based on non-negotiables like life and marriage. Other issues are open to prudential debate and we freely admit that other Catholics applying the teachings of the Church could come down on the other side on a given issue.

    For example, on health care, there is considerable debate on which legislative program or health care delivery system would be the most just or the best application of Catholic principles (or at the very least an improvement).

    You think lay groups should avoid coming to conclusions. But this is where you and I very much disagree. Lay Catholics have been asking for more guidance. They love that their Shepherds outline the principles, but they then ask, okay, so who do you think we should support?

    We answer and give our reasons and, like our website says: “Unlike the issues of life, marriage, and religious freedom, these issues allow for a variance of policy approaches, and not every Catholic must agree with us (though we think you should!). We use the teachings of our Church, the lessons of history, nature, and our intellects to form our judgments in this area.”

    Michael, you contend that it’s virtually impossible to find candidates that could be defended and supported along Catholic principles.

    But with Bobby Schilling, Frank Guinta, and Keith Fimian we have three pro-life and pro-marriage Catholics who are trying to defeat Phil Hare, Carol Shea-Porter and Gerry Connolly — all pro-abortion “Catholics.” Additionally Shea-Porter and Connolly have co-sponsored a bill to repeal DOMA.

    We think it makes sense to get Catholics to financially support these three candidates (and the others we have endorsed) because we think they would be a vast improvement over their competitor.

    David Obey had a mixed record on life. Now that he’s retiring, Obey is supporting Julia Lassa, who is supported by Emily’s List. We think Catholics should financially help pro-life and pro-marriage Sean Duffy win this race.

    No candidate is perfect. And CatholicVote itself is made up of fallible people. But I don’t think that this means we shouldn’t have start a campaign fund that tries to support candidates along the teachings outlined by the Church. In fact, I think that’s a great idea. Obviously. :)

    Michael, I hope you re-consider your thoughts on this matter. If you move from being negative to neutral on the question of Catholics starting a PAC, that would be an improvement. But I do hope you begin to see it as a net good. I’m not asking for you to think it is perfect, but that it is better to have this PAC than not to.

    We think it is important for Catholics to become more politically active and to financially support good candidates for office. Will the next Congress have Julia Lassa, Phil Hare, Gerry Connolly and Carol Shea-Porter? Or do we have the chance to send Sean Duffy, Bobby Schlling, Keith Fimian and Frank Guinta to Congress?

    We can use all the help we can get. Let’s get these candidates the resources they need to win.

    How do you expect good people to get elected if you won’t support them when they run?

  • So I don’t think we claiming to representing the Bishops.

    I really don’t know where this line of argumentation came from. I never claimed that CV was attempting to represent the bishops, but the Church. What I argued was that CV, in speaking for the Church, was claiming authority it does not have (namely to produce conclusions on proper applications of Church teaching).

    Lay Catholics have been asking for more guidance. They love that their Shepherds outline the principles, but they then ask, okay, so who do you think we should support?

    There is a difference between guidance and answers: guidance helps you understand the problem and the possible solutions. By pronouncing the principles, the bishops are giving guidance. No, the bishops aren’t giving the quick “Vote for X” easy answer-not out of a concern for division of the flock, but b/c there are no easy answers. You have this bizarre view of the bishops as seemingly afraid and unable to endorse the candidates they know need endorsing. Instead, they’re not endorsing b/c there isn’t an clear favorite.

    Let’s take Schilling for example. 10.0 score. Pro-life and pro-marriage, but judging by his issues pages it seems pretty clear he’s in favor of deportation (with the euphemistic “should be given the opportunity to return to their country of origin”), in clear violation of the Church’s teaching on immigration & deportation. He also propounds the disgusting and demeaning view that “immigrants must be required to learn the English language as all American citizens are.” I imagine that if his blurbs on national security were expounded, we would find that he is favor of the unjust wars and torture (though if we had the CV questionnaire, we might have a resource to know for sure).

    How on earth do you balance that? Perhaps you make the judgment that abortion & marriage outweigh the damage he does on immigration & national security, and can make arguments on that (arguments I probably would agree with). But it is far from conclusive there is a definitive Catholic answer on this.

    In short, you simplify where simplification is not warranted. Catholics will be better voters when they understand that there is not a simple answer, and that both parties have significant problems that need to be addressed with substantial reforms. CV’s PAC moves us away from that, providing lazy Catholics with a quick checklist that fails to address the whole range of Catholic teaching. Instead of arguing whether the GOP or Democrats are more in line with Church teaching and then funding the GOP, CV’s resources would be better spent educating Catholics and politicians about the teachings of the Church. Even if one accepts endorsements by Catholic lay groups as permissible, those endorsements would be better served by promoting candidates who bravely defy party convention in favor of Church teaching (pro-life Democrats; socially-conscious Republicans-in this, CV’s endorsement of a democrat is encouraging, though frankly it seems to be a token endorsement).

    You ask how I expect good people to get elected if I won’t support them. My answer is that I think political reform will come not by electing a candidate her or there, but by fundamental changes in party philosophy. Neither party accepts the dignity of human life (Dems reject via abortion, escr, etc. ; GOP rejects via torture, war & immigration). Until those parties are converted, we can expect Catholic social teaching to remain untried. CV is not working towards that end, and so I think it ultimately a waste or misuse of resources. However, the work it is doing is not leading Catholic Voters to pressure politicians for a holistic embrace of CHurch teaching, so I’m afraid I cannot find CV’s PAC a neutral. Rather, CV’s PAC is doing demonstrable harm by attempting to simplify and frankly perverting (through bizarre interpretations on a number of issues) Church teaching, leading Catholic voters away from the goals they ought to pursue. It would be better if it did not exist.

  • Brian Burch says:

    Michael,

    No need to provoke silly fights between TAC and CV. I critiqued you and your readers only for their unwillingness to draw specific conclusions on how Catholics ought to measure candidates, particularly in the admittedly messy business of applying Church teaching in areas of prudential concern. Your posts repeatedly defend this reticence.

    The “I will put the readers and contributors of TAC against any Catholic group…” sounds like playground talk. Of course you would. We hardly claim to be the only ones talking about these issues.

    But be careful you don’t get too specific, lest you have to remove the word “Catholic” from your blog name. I would hate for people to think you are speaking for the Bishops. :)

  • Paul Zummo says:

    Phillip,

    I was basically going to say the same thing. What is demeaning about expecting immigrants learn the dominant language of the Nation that they are emigrating to? Moreover, even if one opposes instituting a national language, how does that conflict with Church teaching? Moreover, this:

    I imagine that if his blurbs on national security were expounded, we would find that he is favor of the unjust wars and torture

    Is the kind of crass generalization I’d expect to see at Vox Nova. First of all, we don’t know what his positions are in either respect, and second you’d then have to demonstrate precisely how those stances clearly contradicted Church teaching.

    And finally this:

    GOP rejects via torture, war & immigration)

    is off base. I know that one of the things that certain Catholics like to do is the “they’re all equally bad” game, but when you equate the Democrats clear embrace of positions absolutely antithetical to Church teachings with Republic positions that are not as clearly opposed to Church teaching, then your argument loses force. It takes a titanic leap of faith to argue that the prevailing GOP stance on immigration, for example, is in clear opposition to Church teaching. Now I’m sure someone will object and quote a passage from the Catechism or an Encyclical that actually doesn’t contradict the point I just made, but they’ll pretend it does so anyway.

    We’re also expected to swallow that the GOP “position” on the war and torture are similarly problematic. The problem is there is not GOP “position” on the latter, and while a fair majority supported the most recent wars, again you get into some difficulty proving that support for the war was a clear violation of Catholic teaching. As for torture, I would agree that some Catholic conservatives ignore the Church on this one, but then we get into the usual debate about definitions, etc.

    By the way, that’s not to say Michael’s ultimate stance on these endorsements is wrong. But I think trying to equate the faults of both parties vis a vis Catholic teaching is not going to work, at least on the issues mentioned here.

  • Tito Edwards says:

    Brian,

    We enjoy reading Catholic Vote.

    There is no silly fight between TAC and CV.

    We both similarly aim for the same thing, engaging the public square.

    If anything we like to engage in creative dialogue to better fine tune our ideas in order to be the Creative Minority that changes America into a Catholic nation.

  • I amazed that out of a long post, Mr. Burch chooses to discuss one sentence. Alas. I was hoping at least he or Joshua Mercer would explain why CV did not post the questionnaires…

    No need to provoke silly fights between TAC and CV.

    I didn’t. You mischaracterized the nature of the readers & writers but pretending that somehow they lacked the courage to engage in issues involving prudence. That’s simply not true and I corrected you. All of our contributors advocate taking a particular prudential stand as being the one most in accord with Church teaching.

    sounds like playground talk

    What kind of playgrounds do you go to?

    But be careful you don’t get too specific, lest you have to remove the word “Catholic” from your blog name. I would hate for people to think you are speaking for the Bishops

    I imagine you think this is rather clever & witty, but it actually reinforces my point. TAC only promises a Catholic forum; TAC has not endorsed a candidate nor as a group claimed x prudential decision is the correct decision of a Catholic. In short, TAC is doing precisely what the Catholic laity ought to be doing by discussing these issues without issuing conclusions in the name of the Church. If TAC did, you are right, they should remove the Catholic from their name.

  • Paul Zummo says:

    Now that I’ve critiqued Michael, let me come to my co-bloggers defense (not that he can’t hold his own).

    The “I will put the readers and contributors of TAC against any Catholic group…” sounds like playground talk. Of course you would. We hardly claim to be the only ones talking about these issues.

    He was merely responding to a comment that seemed to indicate that this blog and other Catholic blogs were not addressing serious issues as thoroughly as CV. Maybe you didn’t mean to imply that you were the only ones talking about the issues, but it certainly came across as an implicit put-down. Therefore I don’t think that Michael’s comment would qualify as “playground talk.” I also don’t think that Michael provoked any silly fights – he’s simply questioning – in a reasonable way, IMOHO – the basis of your endorsements. Nothing wrong with some good honest debate, is there?

  • I was basically going to say the same thing. What is demeaning about expecting immigrants learn the dominant language of the Nation that they are emigrating to? Moreover, even if one opposes instituting a national language, how does that conflict with Church teaching?

    There’s a difference between expecting them to learn it and “requiring” them to learn it. I don’t know what that requirement entails or what it is required for. As someone hesitant about governmental power, I think that would make you a little nervous.

    Is the kind of crass generalization I’d expect to see at Vox Nova. First of all, we don’t know what his positions are in either respect, and second you’d then have to demonstrate precisely how those stances clearly contradicted Church teaching.

    Maybe I shouldn’t be so judgmental, you’re right. I based my opinion on the fact that if you’re against torture you usually promote that, and so its absence seemed suspicious to me.

    The problem is there is not GOP “position” on the latter, and while a fair majority supported the most recent wars, again you get into some difficulty proving that support for the war was a clear violation of Catholic teaching

    It is hard as you point out to pinpoint one belief of the party, but that is true of both parties. While we could discuss the issues you name more in depth at a later time regarding whether a Catholic could hold those positions, I think it is fair to say that most Republicans who did and continue to support the war in Iraq are not doing so on just war grounds. The same in immigration. The problem is not merely the conclusions are wrong but that the GOP is not using the right principles.

    Now, one could retort that the Democrats did not oppose the war on just war grounds either, which is true and gets to my point-we need to argue for the adoption of these principles first and foremost, then we could discuss whether x party is better living them out than y party.

  • Paul Zummo says:

    There’s a difference between expecting them to learn it and “requiring” them to learn it. I don’t know what that requirement entails or what it is required for. As someone hesitant about governmental power, I think that would make you a little nervous.

    I guess I’d like to know what exactly Schilling is calling for. If he’s advocating that English be the national language, then I don’t have a problem with that. Beyond that, I can’t see how you could “require” anyone to learn any language.

    As for war/torture, the difficulty is that the when it comes to torture, the issue gets fuzzy because there are few politicians of any stripe that clearly advocate for torture. What we get instead are endless debates about “enhanced interrogation techniques,” so it’s not exactly as black and white as, say, abortion and gay marriage. But since I don’t want this thread to descend into the one millionth debate about torture, I’ll just leave it at that.

    Let’s play nice. No need to impugn TAC’s reputation.

    Sorry. That was truly below the belt. ;)

  • To answer a question that has arisen a few times: If we told the candidates that we would make their answers on the Questionnaire open to the public (and thus fuel for their opponents) candidates would never fill out our Questionnaire.

  • If we told the candidates that we would make their answers on the Questionnaire open to the public (and thus fuel for their opponents) candidates would never fill out our Questionnaire.

    Then your questionnaire is fairly meaningless as far as giving advice to others on who to vote for. I am just supposed to take CV’s word on it that these candidates are have appropriate answers on all these issues? I don’t think so.

    While I understand the position you guys are in, you can’t use the questionnaire to defend your candidates and their positions if you’re not willing to make it public.

    How many people did in fact return the questionnaire?

  • I think Michael is not being charitable in discussing the efforts we are trying to do with CatholicVote PAC.

    I hope others on this site will disagree with his assessment that CV PAC is causing “demonstrable harm.”

    We all may hope and work towards a day when all people will take the appropriate time to investigate all the issues and all the candidates.

    But to suggest that CV PAC is hindering or hampering that goal is grossly unfair. We hope our videos, our website (with the Issues pages and our blog) will further aid a vigorous discussion about these issues. And we hope to engage the American people with advertisements on the radio and TV, too.

    We are trying our best to steer the national political conversation towards a Catholic view of life and family and, yes, subsidiarity.

    I’m not saying we’re perfect, that we won’t make a mistake from time to time, or that we aren’t open to debate and critique.

    But I do hope that others will not accept Denton’s view that: “It would be better if [CV PAC] did not exist.”

    Groups like National Right to Life have candidates fill out Questionnaires and then work hard to educate voters on the candidates and their different positions. They provide a slate from top to bottom for people to support statewide.

    If they failed to do a checklist (which Denton seems to indicate is over-simplification and thus bad), this would not help bring the day when every voter exams the issues as much as we all do.

    No, in fact, if they refused to produce a simple checklist, they would be doing a gross disservice to thousands of pro-life voters who look to them to do research on the different candidates.

  • Michael, all nine candidates on our Endorsements page returned the Questionnaire.

    And again, we are not the first to make use of Questionnaires. If we told the candidates that we would go public with their answers, then they would not fill out our Questionnaire. Or in order to get anyone to respond with a Questionnaire, we would have to offer only the most basic simple Yes and No questions that honestly would provide us little more information than the candidate’s own public statements offer.

    Campaigns see the value of an endorsement and are willing to provide a PAC with more detailed answers on questions (including also internal polling and fundraising details to show their likelihood of success) in return for the PAC not going public with all the information.

    Again, this is not unique to CV. National Right to Life, Emily’s List, Club for Growth, etc, all use this same strategy so they can better determine which candidates are truly worth supporting.

    The alternative which you would prefer (full answers) is just not possible in this political environment.

    So, yes, the supporters of CatholicVote entrust our research team to make the best judgment of public and private information on which candidates to support – given all the realities and difficulties.

    There could be other or better ways to determine which candidate to support. I’m open to suggestions.

  • Brian Burch says:

    Tito/Michael,

    After re-reading my original post, I understand my critique of TAC could have been misinterpreted as more broad. My point was that I think you are wrong to sit on the sidelines and counsel Catholic groups against drawing conclusions on specific candidates.

    Whether we have wrongly applied the principle of subsidiarity, as Mr. Acquila seems to imply, remains a good question that deserves to be debated. But your argument that such particular judgments ought to be avoided altogether in the context of specific candidates remains unconvincing.

    It seems to me the debate boils down to this: should a Catholic lay organization spend time and resources researching and interviewing candidates for office and drawing specific conclusions for Catholic voters based on their application of the principles of Cath social doctrine? Your position seems to be, yes to research and conversation, but no conclusions. We disagree, and believe the trajectory of the development of the Church in this area, namely an increased deference (on non-negotiable questions) to the role of the laity, is precisely what is needed.

    Another point – we do not “endorse in the name of the Church.” In fact, we explicitly disclaim this in multiple places on our website, and I am dubious of the accusation that somehow, unknowing Catholics (or non-Catholics) will assume that CV is the political mouthpiece of the institutional Church.

    Final point, whether we adjust our policy and reserve the right to publicly disclose candidate responses to our questionnaire remains a point of debate within CV. I am not aware of what other political orgs do. For now, if you would like to see the blank questionnaire, we would be happy to share it.

    And of course, Catholic social teaching, authentically read, requires all football loving Americans to cheer for the Bears. See you in the playoffs.

  • Joshua:

    When I refer to CV PAC, I assume that is the branch of CV that handles the endorsements and the donations. My understanding was that the videos and blog were a separate aspect of CV. Never having been read into the structure of CV, I could be wrong. My comments ought to be taken that it would be better for CV to cease its endorsing activities, but that hopefully it will redirected its resources in more productive ways.

    The comparison to NRLC is apples/oranges. NRLC claims only a handful of issues and proclaims those issues to be the most important ones. The scores are based on those issues and are designed to educate on those issues. If I am not mistaken, NRLC (or other groups like) will often provide detailed voting records to justify their scores. NRLC also does not claim to speak for the Church. CV on the hand is supposed to be addressing all issues in the name of Catholicism.

    While I think a checklist on a narrow slate of issues isn’t a good way to base your vote (as you have said, I think we need to be broader than single-issue), it can be informative. There are however other ways for CV to provide research considering the scope of issues it claims to address. A much longer write-up on the candidates would be a start, such that it could address all the issues in a more in-depth way. It could provide a comparison between the candidates in a race (actually reid’s record to angle’s, for example). There are a lot of innovative ideas that using technology and social media CV could employ that would be far more informative than the simple “We like X” that would also avoid making conclusions on matters of prudence.

    The alternative which you would prefer (full answers) is just not possible in this political environment

    I’m not saying don’t use them, but I don’t think you can keep them secret while at the same time arguing that their presence justifies your decision. If someone tells me “Hey, I talked to that person. It’s okay,” I’m not going to base my decision on the fact that they talked; rather, I am going to base my opinion on my ability to trust the person telling me it’s ok. In other words, for these questionnaires to have an impact on my decision to vote, I would need to really trust CV to do my job for me.

    all nine candidates on our Endorsements page returned the Questionnaire.

    I figured that. But how many were sent out and how many were returned was more of what I was asking.

  • Linus says:

    The USCCB letter on economics (“Economic Justice For All”) would be merely incomprehensible if it hadn’t been written with the stated intent of issuing pastoral counsel on a topic of which the Bishops freely admit, in the letter itself, to having no advanced knowledge. In doing so, it becomes a rather dangerous document written by Chruch authorities who clearly should have been dealing with more important issues in their own backyards at the time it was written (1986). I have the letter open in front of me right now and it is self-contradictory and does not even make correct use of the terms “economy” and “economics.” It is quite literally nonsensical from any perspective of academic and economic thought, from Keynesian to Austrian, and it is an all-around unfortunate document for the USCCB to have attached its name to, considering that the letter might seem to those who don’t know any better to offer meaninfgul instruction on topics that are indeed very imporant and which the Church can and does ameliorate on some levels: poverty and injustice.

  • Mr. Burch

    Your position seems to be, yes to research and conversation, but no conclusions.

    I think that’s accurate.

    Another point – we do not “endorse in the name of the Church.” In fact, we explicitly disclaim this in multiple places on our website, and I am dubious of the accusation that somehow, unknowing Catholics (or non-Catholics) will assume that CV is the political mouthpiece of the institutional Church.

    I think your error is in assuming that if people know that CV is not speaking on behalf of say the USCCB or bishops, then it’s not speaking on behalf of the Church. That’s not true. Once you claim to be Catholic, your actions and your statements are representative of Catholicism as a whole. This is true for us as individuals living our lives (think of how many people have been turned off from the Church b/c of person who claimed to be Catholic that lived a life that was anything but), and especially true for groups claiming to be Catholic in the public square. This requires a heightened duty to be faithful to the Church’s teaching.

    When CV says “this is our position” it is also saying “This is the position of good Catholics” regardless of the number of disclaimers put on the website. Insofar as prudence is involved both in the application of Catholic principles to various issues as well as the weighing of issues between one another, I think it is imprudent at best for Catholic groups to make such statements.

    For now, if you would like to see the blank questionnaire, we would be happy to share it.

    I think that would be very helpful in figuring out what CV is basing its decision on.

    And of course, Catholic social teaching, authentically read, requires all football loving Americans to cheer for the Bears.

    The fact that CV is led by someone who does not root for the Saints tells me all I need to know about CV’s lack of commitment to true Catholic principles. ;)

    See you in the playoffs.

    That’s very kind of you to tune in to watch Saints playoffs games. You’ll find them very entertaining.

  • Phillip says:

    Some thoughts from the Bishop of Camden on culture and migration:

    “The defense of cultural pluralism, especially in regard to migrant peoples, is always consistent with the Holy Father’s understanding of the human person. To strip a person of his or her culture, to reduce a person to an object, when only a person can truly be human is to be able to have the freedom to create their own culture. The Holy Father’s theory of culture is perhaps best expressed in a talk that he gave at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on June 2, 1980. This gave him the opportunity to speak in later discourses on the relationship of culture and faith. The theme of the talk was that the future of mankind depends on culture. In that historic talk he said, “It is through culture that man lives a truly human life. Human life is also culture in the sense that it is by culture that man is distinguished and differentiated from everything else that exists in the visible world; man cannot do without culture.”27 If we were to apply this to the situation of migrants, a migrant person also cannot do without culture. He or she often straddles two cultures and not only must maintain his or her own, but also acquire all that a new culture entails; languages, customs, etc. Migrants become the purveyors of diversity which contributes to the ultimate unity of the human family.”

    While he does not state that learning the language of the receiving country should be forced, he does note that the migrant should acquire the culture of the receiving nation as a duty of becoming a member of that nation. This includes its language.

    I might argue that failure to do so is a moral failure. As there are rights, there is always a corresponding duty. Moral failures can be compelled by legal requirements.

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