We are approaching the most important U.S. Presidential election for us – by “us” I mean theologically orthodox, politically conservative Catholics – possibly since 1960, when the election of the first Catholic president seemed so possible and actually occurred. I’m grateful to be a contributing member of The American Catholic during this election season, which is one of the most widely-read Catholic blogs in the country. This certainly won’t be the last thing I have to say about the presidential race, but rather the first.
When the GOP primary was getting underway, I was a firm Ron Paul supporter. I knew he would not and could not win, but I supported him anyway because I agree with him on most issues, particularly on the role of our government both domestically and abroad. To support Ron Paul was to support the drastic reduction of the federal government, to reject the arrogant assumptions of technocratic management of economic and social issues from the top-down, and to place a vote of confidence in individuals, families, and local governments to solve social and moral problems. I also believe that this is the fundamental political truth of our time: a state governed by militant secularists cannot possibly effect the common good as it is understood by Christians, people of other faiths, or even those secularists who recognize the value of the natural law tradition that has informed the politics of Western civilization since the time of Plato and Aristotle. And yet if we are destined to have secularists in power, we can at least work to limit their power by limiting government as much as possible.
The corollary of the political truth stated above is that one cannot simply discuss “the role of government” in the abstract, without considering who will actually run the state and what values and assumptions they take with them as they create and execute policies with coercive force. Who exactly will be deciding issues that affect your life and mine? Who will have coercive power over you and yours?
More important than what happens to me or my family, though, is how the Church will be affected by those who rule. Even in her most humiliated and rejected state, which the sex scandals have arguably wrought, the Church is still the light of civilization. If her light is extinguished, driven underground, or forced to hide in the shadows, then it is not simply we Catholics who will suffer (though there is certainly nothing wrong with suffering for the faith), but all of society. The Church can and has survived hideous persecution, but it is not clear that society can survive what it will inevitably become without the Church, as well as all of the other religious organizations that will be affected by federal policies, actively involved in public life. Finally, whether society recognizes its debt to the Church or not is irrelevant.
It may be that God has ordained this as a time of cleansing, a time during which the Church must be forced underground and reduced to a smaller size so that she can be tempered and purified. But we cannot know such things with any certainty. What we can know with at least a little more clarity, on the other hand, is what our duties are as Catholic citizens. It is my view that our first priority is to protect the right of the Church to publicly exist. Usually this doesn’t come up because usually the U.S. government does not enact policies that threaten this public existence. But the status quo has changed, and we now face the prospect of an open, vicious anti-Catholic regime in a lame duck Obama presidency. For this reason, I feel obliged as a Catholic to work for the defeat of Obama-Biden in 2012. In practical terms, this means supporting Romeny-Ryan for the Presidency.
If I haven’t already made it clear, Romney certainly wouldn’t be my first choice. But after Rick Perry crashed and burned early on in the primaries, it became clear that Romney would be the nominee. I never believed for a moment that Gingrich or Santorum would win the nomination, or Ron Paul for that matter. That a man like Romney represents the GOP is indicative of a number of problems that affect the party and will continue to affect it in the coming decades, but this is hardly relevant now.
I do not look at Romney as a man, but as a representative of the broad coalition of interests that support the GOP and resist the Democrats. I look at Obama in the same way, as a representative of an opposite coalition of interests that support the Democrats and resist the GOP. For better or worse, I believe the Church finds itself out of necessity in the GOP coalition.
The reason why is obvious. Put aside the academic policy debates for a moment. Put aside the debate over whether or not concern for the poor necessitates a confiscatory welfare regime, whether water-boarding is an intrinsic evil, whether being pro-life means being pro-subsidized single motherhood, or any of the other heated policy debates that politically-minded Catholics like to have. The reality is that the fate of the Church in the United States, which is not historically Catholic or majority Catholic, will necessarily be determined through a struggle of powers greater than itself.
On one side of the struggle is a coalition that respects the right of the Church to exist, even if it does not fully embrace all of her positions. On the other side of the struggle is a coalition that can barely conceal its violent hostility for the Church and is pursuing policies and programs that will have the practical effect of driving her out of public life. It isn’t my intention to make the hard case for that here, but most of us understand what the far-reaching implications of the HHS mandate will be. We understand that the kind of people who would propose and implement such a thing can be counted upon to press even further, especially when they no longer have an election to win. We are well within reason to label these people enemies.
As a matter of self-defense, then, we must work for the defeat of Obama this fall. There are other prudent reasons to do so as well. Obama’s vision of fairness and justice is irrational and warped. His recent statements on the HHS mandate are proof enough of this. In the view of Democratic Party, it is not simply our obligation to cough up as much as they determine they need to pump into another social program whose practical results are dubious; our refusal to do so is tantamount to actually taking control of someone else’s life and limiting their freedom. If I don’t want to pay for someone else’s birth control, this means I want to “control the decisions they make about their health” or something along these lines. This insane rationale can be extended to just about anything that can itemized by an apparatchik. There is no limit to what this regime believes it can demand of you in the name of its grand social vision, a vision which is sharply at odds, moreover, with the Catholic faith. As Pope Leo XIII wrote:
If, then, by anyone in authority, something be sanctioned out of conformity with the principles of right reason, and consequently hurtful to the commonwealth, such an enactment can have no binding force of law, as being no rule of justice, but certain to lead men away from that good which is the very end of civil society. — Libertas, 10
There is no doubt in my mind that this is a perfect description of the HHS mandate and its underlying principles.
If God, in his wisdom, decides to punish us with four more years of Obama, I will see the good in it. I think it will motivate Catholics to organize and resist in ways they have not yet seen the need to do, and that out of this may grow something wonderful and transformative. But I cannot in conscience actively work for such an outcome. I believe my duty is to resist this categorically evil regime. That is why I will support Romney-Ryan for the White House in 2012. I will do so with a clear conscience as one who would defend the Church, the light of civilization and bride of Christ.