Both friends and strangers have challenged why a Catholic theologian like me would publicly support the re-election of President Barack Obama. The implication always is that my Catholic faith should dictate otherwise.
Of course, I cite Catholic social doctrine (note the weighty term) and the mandate of my faith to care for “the least” among us (Matthew 25:34). Social programs for the common good and especially for the most vulnerable are central to Catholic social teaching.
By contrast, Ayn Rand’s proposal of a “virtue of selfishness,” besides being an oxymoron, is the antithesis of Catholic faith.
If implemented as social policy — a la the Romney/Ryan budget — the neediest among us will suffer by far the most. Some 64 percent of its alleged “savings” come from cutting programs that aid poor families and individuals.
The comeback is invariably around abortion, whereupon I explain that my opposition to abortion is precisely the tipping point that prompts my unqualified support of President Obama.
As a loyal Catholic, I accept the teaching of my Church that “every human life, from the moment of conception until death, is sacred” and that abortion is “gravely contrary to the moral law” (Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 2319, 2271).
Though the U.S. Catholic Bishops caution, “As Catholics we are not single issue voters” (Faithful Citizenship, November 2007), yet with some 1.3 million annually in the U.S., abortion presents our country with a grave moral crisis.
The dilemma for citizens like me is that the great majority of our fellow Americans favor some possibility of abortion and do not want to criminalize it again.
As Thomas Aquinas taught wisely, laws must reflect “the consensus of the governed” and there is no agreement in this country to ban all abortions. Even Gov. Mitt Romney is now making “exceptions.”
When faced with a strategic dilemma in applying a general moral principle, the same Aquinas argued that Christians should choose whatever appears to be the lesser evil and the greater good.
In this light, the most feasible moral choice is to reduce the number of abortions. So, Catholics like me and citizens of like mind should support the candidate who has the best abortion reducing policies.
There is ample evidence that good social programs can dramatically reduce the number of abortions — and that the lack of them increase it. The Dutch and the Germans have an abortion rate approximately one-third of the U.S. because they have universal health care, including prenatal and postnatal care, and programs to encourage adoption.
All the statistics show a deep correlation between abortion and economic need. More than three out of four women give economic reasons for choosing abortion, and the abortion rate is 300 percent higher among people below the poverty level than those above it.
A fine instance of good social services reducing abortion is the Massachusetts health-care plan that Gov. Romney signed into law before his flip-flop on health care.
It has lowered the number significantly, with a 21 percent decrease among teenagers. [More]