Yesterday evening, we attended Mass and for a moment thought we would hear actual instruction in the fundamentals of the Catholic faith. After hearing one of my favorite passages in the Gospels, the “Render unto Caesar” confrontation between Jesus as the Pharisees, our priest broached the subject of what belongs to secular government and what belongs to God in the context of elections and choices made by voters. Unfortunately, he wound up wasting a good opportunity to clarify the Catechism to those who ignore it.
The priest prefaced his remarks by noting that we have the freedom not to vote, as well as the freedom to vote. If we have the choice of two unacceptable candidates, he said, why vote for either one? This is a defensible argument, but one with which I disagree. No candidate is perfect, and some are worse than others. In his construction, we will wind up being governed or represented by one of the two candidates, and my vote would go to the one who will do less damage. To do otherwise pretends somehow that neither candidate will get elected thanks to my apathy, and that’s an irresponsible solution to a bad situation.
The homily took a better direction when he began discussing the nature of freedom. It comes from the Creator, as our founding documents recognize, and not from government, in the nature of our own individual creation. We are free from the moment of conception, and that cannot nor should not be rendered to Caesar — if we expect to remain free. That belongs to God and God alone. To vote for those who act otherwise threatens the freedom of all, but especially those who come after us. How can people vote for those who would render unto Caesar what belongs to God?
Unfortunately, even my description above is slightly more specific than the priest’s. When I mentioned abortion and the Catholic vote at the end of my NARN show on Saturday, complete with specific references to the Catechism, one caller who had planned on arguing with me over its place in doctrine changed his tune. Instead, he said that I seemed more interested in instructing Catholics on this point than the church itself — and apparently he was right. The priest didn’t need to endorse any specific candidates, but he failed to even mention the word “abortion” or take the teaching moment to instruct Catholics on what the church’s own documents calls a foundational doctrine.
Maybe that shouldn’t surprise me. The last time I heard a priest mention the Catechism during Mass, I was in short pants and people still wore “Sunday clothes” to church. It’s no wonder Catholics believe they can support abortion and still claim to vote as Catholics, or that politicians can protect abortion and run as Catholic candidates for office. Until the clergy stops trying to pander to their congregations and value inclusiveness over truth, those lessons will never be taught. I give last night’s homilist credit, though, for coming closer to that than any priest I’ve heard in decades, but he missed an opportunity to be a real leader of the flock.
Update: To answer one question from the comments, I’m not arguing to impose the Catholic Church on America as the arbiter of political candidates. I’m arguing that politicians who campaign on their membership in the Catholic Church and support abortion are stunningly ignorant of their faith at best, and hypocrites at worst — and Catholics who claim that they can support abortion and these politicians are as well. The Catholic priests in America could at least eliminate the first condition by honestly teaching their congregations what the church itself considers as doctrine on abortion, and until they do, American Catholics will continue to fall prey to pro-abortion hucksters.