Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
November 1, 2004
A value for both life and dignity
American voters are going to the polls this week in a presidential election that has seen more than its fair share of overheated rhetoric about abortion. The presence of John Kerry, a pro-choice Catholic (is there such a thing?), has produced a lot of talk about whether Kerry should be allowed to receive Communion and whether it is sinful for Catholics to vote for politicians who are pro-choice.
The answers that you will get from this corner are that it would be scandalous for any public figure who persistently advocates policies that directly lead to the taking of innocent human life to partake of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ and that no person should vote for candidates who would deny basic human rights, such as the right to life . . . or the right to peace.
And while that has serious implications for Kerry's status as a practising Catholic, it probably doesn't help Americans very much in deciding for whom to vote.
A conscientious U.S. Catholic faces hard issues in deciding for whom to vote.
President George W. Bush's record on abortion and other procreation issues, such as fetal stem cell research, is poor (although better than that of recent Canadian leaders). His record on peace, human rights and poverty should be of grave concern.
Kerry's stand in favour of so-called abortion rights and same-sex marriage is clearly unacceptable.
But while abortion is a crucial issue, how can voters ignore the fact that the president of the U.S. oversees the world's largest nuclear weapons arsenal?
Abortion as a political issue has done a lot to polarize voters, but even three consecutive Republican presidents have done nothing to slow down the slaughter of more than one million unborn children a year in the U.S.
Citizens in the U.S. (and Canada too) remain uncomfortable with a system that places no restrictions on abortion, but they really have no place to turn to find political leaders who will stem the tide.
The all-or-nothing approach does not resonate with the public. But we can build toward a happier future by striving, step by step, to create a culture of life. But what is that culture?
Catholic social teaching aims to protect, not only the life, but also the dignity of every human person. If we took that seriously, we would support actions that would offer single pregnant women something better than a life of poverty if they carry their babies to term. If we took that seriously, we would ask our education system to tell all high school students about fetal development and about the importance of abstinence before marriage. If we took that seriously, we would ask governments to provide counselling to all women before they have an abortion to counter the advice women too often receive that they have "no choice" but abortion.
It is too pat an answer to say it is a sin to vote for candidates who support abortion when people's choice is often between candidates who support "abortion rights" and those who will do nothing to curtail them. We ought to recognize - even if the society around us does not - that human life and human dignity are not two pieces that can be separated. If we want to support life, we ought to be equally serious about supporting dignity.
We should not give the time of day to politicians who say they are pro-life, but do nothing to end abortion, start unjustifiable wars in faraway lands and cut benefits for the poor at home.
Better yet, we should put an end to rhetoric that leads Catholics to steer clear of political involvement because they fear it would compromise their faith. It will compromise your faith if you do not uphold both human life and human dignity. But we dearly need those who will step forward precisely to give both life and dignity their due.
Letter to the Editor - 11/15/04
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