Whither the Catholic vote in this election? Late last week, a poll showed Obama ahead by eight among Catholic registered voters (to which I’ve lost the link), although the data didn’t come from one of the regular national pollsters such as Pew, Gallup, or Rasmussen. With Abortion-Palooza in Charlotte still ringing in the ear and the provocative HHS contraception mandate threatening religious liberty — as well as Paul Ryan’s supposedly apostate budget in the mix — the Catholic vote may end up being critical to the outcome, or at least a bellwether of it.
National Catholic Reporter asked Archbishop Charles Chaput about his own personal take on the election, Barack Obama’s support for abortion, and the Ryan budget, and Chaput declined the opportunity to tell his flock how to vote. However, he wasn’t shy about sharing his own personal view on the presidential election, and strongly rebutting the argument that there is an equivalence between abortion and cuts to government spending (via LifeNews):
We’re speaking on the night Barack Obama is delivering his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. Let me ask flat-out: Do you believe a Catholic in good faith can vote for Obama?
I can only speak in terms of my own personal views. I certainly can’t vote for somebody who’s either pro-choice or pro-abortion.
I’m not a Republican and I’m not a Democrat. I’m registered as an independent, because I don’t think the church should be identified with one party or another. As an individual and voter I have deep personal concerns about any party that supports changing the definition of marriage, supports abortion in all circumstances, wants to restrict the traditional understanding of religious freedom. Those kinds of issues cause me a great deal of uneasiness.
What about the wing of the church that says a party that supports the Ryan budget also ought to cause concern?
Jesus tells us very clearly that if we don’t help the poor, we’re going to go to hell. Period. There’s just no doubt about it. That has to be a foundational concern of Catholics and of all Christians. But Jesus didn’t say the government has to take care of them, or that we have to pay taxes to take care of them. Those are prudential judgments. Anybody who would condemn someone because of their position on taxes is making a leap that I can’t make as a Catholic. … You can’t say that somebody’s not Christian because they want to limit taxation. Again, I’m speaking only for myself, but I think that’s a legitimate position. It may not be the correct one, but it’s certainly a legitimate Catholic position; and to say that it’s somehow intrinsically evil like abortion doesn’t make any sense at all.
That said, do you find the Ryan budget troubling?
The Ryan budget isn’t the budget I would write. I think he’s trying to deal with the same issue in the government I’m dealing with here locally, which is spending more than we bring in. I admire the courage of anyone who’s actually trying to solve the problems rather than paper over them. I think a vigorous debate about the issues, rather than the personalities, is the way through this problem. It’s immoral for us to continue to spend money we don’t have. I think that those persons who don’t want to deal with the issue are, in some ways, doing wrong by putting it off for their own political protection or the protection of their party.
Why immoral? We’re not spending our own money. We’re spending our grandchildren’s money. One can make an argument that this represents theft, or at least taxation without representation:
Chaput gives one of the clearest and easily-digestible answers on the difference for Catholics on budgets and abortions. One is in the realm of prudential judgments, while the other is intrinsically evil. That doesn’t mean that Catholics have to like Ryan’s budget, but it does mean that they shouldn’t use it as an excuse to support pro-abortion candidates, especially after the week-long celebration of the Democratic Party sacrament in Charlotte earlier this month.
Update: I had the link right, but the interview was with the National Catholic Reporter, not the National Catholic Register. Thanks to Thomas L. McDonald of both Patheos and National Catholic Register for the correction, as well as a good laugh:
@EdMorrissey Just FYI: the Chaput interview was with the NC Reporter (Commies) not the NC Register (cool kids).
— Thomas L. McDonald (WeirdCatholic.com) (@ThomasLMcDonald) September 18, 2012
I’ve fixed it above.