Can of Worms: Politics and Religion, Guest Post 1

What is a Can of Worms Post?

Today's Can of Worms Guest Post is by Leila of Little Catholic Bubble.  She leans to the right and will get this weeks serving of Worms started.  I am honored she was willing to guest post on my 'lil corner of the blogosphere!  Thank-you so much Leila.

Rebecca was kind enough to ask me to write a guest post on why I am a Catholic and a Republican. Or, perhaps more accurately from my perspective, why I am a Catholic and cannot be a Democrat. 
It’s pretty cut and dry.
The last two popes and the bishops have taught that there are certain “non-negotiable” issues for Catholics involved in politics, issues which trump all other considerations. The non-negotiables come down to these:
  • Abortion is intrinsically evil and must never be promoted or condoned.
  • Embryonic stem cell research and human cloning are intrinsically evil and must never be promoted or condoned.
  • Euthanasia is intrinsically evil and must never be promoted or condoned. 
  • The traditional understanding of marriage as the union of one man and one woman must always be upheld.
  • The right of parents to educate their children must always be upheld.
All other issues (for example, immigration, education, affordable housing, health and welfare, etc.) are considered policy issues, about which Catholics are free to disagree. As Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix has clarified in a guide for Catholics called, Catholics in the Public Square
On each of these [policy] issues, we should do our best to be informed and to support those proposed solutions that seem most likely to be effective. However, when it comes to direct attacks on innocent human life, being right on all the other issues can never justify a wrong choice on this most serious matter.
Indeed, Pope John Paul II wrote:
Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights -- for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture -- is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with the maximum determination.  (Christifideles Laici, 38)
In a 2006 speech to European politicians, Pope Benedict XVI said the following:
As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable. Among these the following emerge clearly today:
    • Protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death;
    • Recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family as a union between a man and a woman based on marriage and its defense from attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different forms of union which in reality harm it and contribute to its destabilization, obscuring its particular character and its irreplaceable social role;
    • The protection of the rights of parents to educate their children.

In light of that crystal clear teaching, consider the following:
On Abortion
Today’s Democratic Party supports abortion unequivocally, to the point that even the word “rare” (as in “we believe abortion should be safe, legal and rare”) was finally and purposefully removed from the 2008 Democratic Platform. By contrast, the 2008 Republican Platform affirms that the “unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed.”
On Embryonic Stem Cell Research and Human Cloning
The Democratic Platform champions taxpayer funding for the destruction of human embryos to be used as research material, denouncing those who oppose it as putting “ideology” (i.e., their Catholic Faith) above “science.”
Compare that to the Republican Platform: “We call for a ban on human cloning and a ban on the creation of or experimentation on human embryos for research purposes" and a "ban on all embryonic stem-cell research, public or private.”
On Euthanasia
The growing push for the legalization of euthanasia at both the state and federal levels also comes from Democrats (who often refer to this type of killing as “death with dignity”).  The Republican Platform, however, explicitly condemns this intrinsic moral evil: “[W]e oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide, which endanger especially those on the margins of society.”
On Defense of Traditional Marriage
Today’s Democrats are much more likely to promote homosexual rights and push for “gay marriage” than Republicans, whose Platform calls for protection of traditional marriage, in the form of a Constitutional Amendment.
On the Right of Parents to Educate Their Children
Democrats (and the liberal teachers’ unions to which they are beholden) go to great lengths to deny parents a choice in their children’s education, not only opposing school vouchers for private schools, but also opposing secular public charter schools, which often deviate from the leftist model. Laws that seek to limit the rights of homeschooling parents also come overwhelmingly from Democrats. By contrast, the Republican Platform states: “Parents should be able to decide the learning environment that is best for their child.” 
On every non-negotiable point for Catholics, the Democratic Party takes the wrong side. It is no wonder that it has become known as the Party of Abortion or the Party of Death. 
Catholics should take note that it is also the Party that is most hostile to traditional religion, and becoming more so. 
I want to make one thing clear: I am a Catholic before I am a Republican. In fact, I am not overly thrilled with the Republican Party these days and may become an Independent if the Republicans ever change course. But the one thing I cannot do is align myself with the Democrats. Catholics must evaluate candidates and vote based on the non-negotiable issues. (I have heard tell of a mythical creature called a “pro-life Democrat politician” but I have never actually seen a voting record that would confirm its existence). 
It’s a sad truth that the Democratic Party of today is nothing like the Democratic Party of our grandparents, which still had a moral grounding. We must not confuse the present with the past, and yet many Catholics do. They are either unaware or unwilling to admit that the Democratic Party (once supported overwhelmingly by Catholics) has become little more than a mouthpiece for secular materialism, an extremely anti-Catholic ideology. 
Finally, to the Catholics who have not left the Democratic Party: Please consider that the Democratic Party has long ago left you.

This Can of Worms has been opened.  What do you think?


  1. Bravo! I love this post. It wrote so well what I was only able to skim the surface with mine. :)

    Thank you, Leila, for doing the leg-work on the precise teachings that have come from the Church regarding the non-negotiables. I knew they were out there, and know on the surface what they are, but hadn't really put it to paper.

  2. Being not Catholic but a Republican, I was able to really agree with your post. I was raised in a very right-wing type of church (United Church of God)that uphold these beliefs too. However, sometimes I have a problem completely agreeing with them. There always seems to be one "good" story to question my automatic response of, I don't believe these are right.

  3. Thanks so much for doing this, Rebecca! I am really looking forward to this series.

    Leila, I don't remember seeing the list of “non-negotiables” and “negotiables” like this before. The lists that I do remember seeing look somewhat different and less clearly favor Republicans... so I would appreciate links to authoritative sources for this. Do you think that it would be possible to give Rebecca some links to your sources (other than one that must be purchased) for her to add to the post?

  4. Leila,
    This is awesome! Very very well written! Rebecca, I'm glad to have found your blog! :)

  5. I can't tell you how many Catholics I had to explain this to during the last presidential election and there was blatant denial with every single one of them; they simply wouldn't budge even though it was there, in black and white, right in front of them.

    Thank you for the great post, Leila!

  6. Complicated Life,
    I can relate! I explained this to my family over and over again, and they would look at me shake their head and say, "You can't vote on one or two issues!" I would respond saying that everything else didn't matter if as humans we don't protect our basic right to life. This concept made sense, but it still wasn't enough to convince them. So frustrating!

  7. Great idea, Rebecca- love the title of Can of Worms!

    Fabulous post, Leila. Your presentation is well-documented and articuilate. The list of non-negotiables is clear according to the Catechism and teachings from Rome. I feel both parties have left me and now consider myself to be a libertarian. We are called to be Catholic Americans, not American Catholics. (The adjective controls the noun!)

  8. Megan- great point in bringing up so-called "one-issue voters". It's not that I'm a one-issue voter, it's that being on the other side of these issues automatically rules out the candidate! If I was dating someone and he said he believed in polygamy- it wouldn't matter if he was the king of England and perfect in every way- that would automatically rule him out!

  9. Great! I hope you'll post some opinion pieces that are different and perhaps not in agreement with everyone else posting comments here

  10. Gwen, yes, Rebecca has asked four bloggers to post: Two left-leaning, two right-leaning. She randomly picked who went first, and it was me.

    Rae, here is a link to some info:


    Also, the following article (http://www.ignatiusinsight.com/features/mbrumley_issues_oct04.asp) goes in-depth, even quoting Cardinal Ratzinger (before he was Pope Benedict), who said something quite clear:

    Cardinal Ratzinger made this point recently in connection with abortion and euthanasia on the one hand and capital punishment and war on the other. In his letter, “Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion,” he set out general principles regarding reception of the Eucharist by those who support abortion rights and euthanasia. Ratzinger wrote, “Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage way, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”

    Also, if you google "catholic non-negotiables" you will find lots of info.

  11. As always, Leila, you are spot on.

  12. I love cans of worms! :-) Good job, Leila.

  13. Leila,

    I love this post; thanks for "opening the can", (haha). I'm going to be "closing" it on Friday. :)

    I completely agree with everything you've said, but I do have to add that the Pope (in addition to the Catechism) has stated that Torture is contrary to the respect for the person and for human dignity on several occasions.
    According to the Compendium of Social Doctrine of the Church, the prohibition against torture can never be contravened and The use of torture is intrinsically wrong.

    This leaves me unable to support the Republican party in any way because far, far too many Republicans are fine with using torture as a weapon in the war on terror. Based on what I have read, it would seem as though torture ought to be on the list of "non-negotibles", along with all of the others you listed as well.

    Thanks again for a really well-written post!

  14. Sarah- the Republican platform does not support torture. Some individuals within the party might- but it is not part of the platform. In fact, the presidential candidate in 08, John McCain, was extremely against torture.

  15. Lauren, thanks for taking the words right out of my mouth!! Sarah, when you can show me where the Republican Party officially sanctions torture, then your point may have been valid. I have been a Republican for decades (with a brief stint as a Democrat who voted for Clinton! Yipes) and I have never heard this before, that the Republican Party supports torture. So, I am confused at why you can't be a Republican.

    Also, and this is a completely different issue, "torture" is a subjective concept. I am not sure anyone could even agree where the line is there, unlike the non-negotiables. Many things are "contrary to the respect for person and human dignity" that are also judged subjectively. I happen to think that the modern welfare state is extremely "contrary to human dignity" for example. Again, some things we are free to disagree on, due to subjectivity.

    I agree with you, of course, that torture is wrong.

  16. Well yes, McCain, Huckabee, Ron Paul etc. have all come out against torture. But it wasn't so long ago that the Bush administration condoned torture.

    It's funny to hear torture labeled as subjective. usually there are no "grey" areas and everything is cut and dry for Republicans. No to gay marriage! yes to tax cuts! I mean, if your life is being threatened and pain is being inflicted on you physically, by an authoritative power trying to fight another authoritative power, is that really subjective? Oh wait, there I go again with the emotion right?!

    But if torture can be labeled subjective, then why not abortion/torture of the fetus?

  17. OK, Gwen.

    -Two people are either married or not.
    -Tax cuts exist or not.
    -A mother is wounded a baby is dead because an abortion took place or they're not because it didn't.
    -The death penalty is either legal or not.

    But torture- while being rightfully illegal- is difficult to define. Is sleep deprivation torture? Is a violent barking dog torture? Is Barney's "I love you" song torture? These issues are subjective. It's difficult to define exactly what torture is.

    And, like Leila, I'm also against torture and believe it degrades the dignity of the human person. (I'm a Ron Paul kind of girl.) :)

  18. Lauren, are we reading each other's minds?? :)

  19. (1)I guess I'll play moderator here and remind everyone that while we're all passionate about these things, there's no reason to be snarky or uncharitable in our responses to each other.

    (2) I did not say in my comment that support for torture is part of the republican party platform. I did say that *far, far too many republicans support the use of torture in the war on terror* and I don't think that you can say that statement is wrong. If one Republican supports the use of torture in the war on terror, it would be too many, because as you said, "you agree that torture is wrong". In the exact same way that if one Democrat supported abortion, it would be too many. Wrong is wrong.

    Yes, John McCain does not support torture, as I wouldn't expect someone who was a victim of it to do so. I also doubt that John McCain, as a victim of torture, would agree that it's use is subjective. That is why I voted for him in the Presidential election in 2008.

    (3) In my comment I did *not* say that you are not free to identify as a Republican if you so choose, only that *I* will not identify as a Republican because far too many of their ranks support torture.

    I also choose not to identify as a Democrat for many reasons. Chief among them is their party support for abortion.

    I will not ever vote for a candidate who supports a non-negotible. I will never vote for a candidate who supports abortion or torture. And if that means that I don't vote, than so be it. I am a Catholic first and an American second.

    PS. I agree with you about the modern welfare system being a violation against the dignity of the human person. It's a violation against their ability to become active, contributing members of society, and it's a violation against all of us who are not poor, because Christ (Matthew 25) commanded US to do the Corporal works of mercy ourselves, not pay taxes so someone else can.

  20. Gwen, there is nothing subjective about defining abortion. Abortion is the direct and intentional ending of a pregnancy by the killing of the fetus (whether you are "pro-choice" or pro-life).

    We all know what "an abortion" is when we speak of it. No so with "torture." Definitions of torture vary widely. Some think that keeping bright lights on day and night is torture, or loud music blaring at war criminals, or sleep deprivation, etc. Some European nations no doubt consider corporal punishment as torture, since it has been outlawed in places. So, it runs a HUUUUGE spectrum of subjectivity, at least as to where torture begins and legitimate interrogation techniques end.

    Abortion? It's abortion. I know what an abortion is, you know what an abortion is. There are no debates anywhere about what abortion is, only if it's allowable.

    By the way, even if abortion were not torturous for the fetus, abortion would still be intrinsically evil. The pain part of it is horrific (and yes, subjective!), but not relevant in the least to the question of abortion's objectively evil nature. Abortion would be evil even if (or when) the fetus feels nothing.

  21. Sarah, I agree with you. I am confused why you think I was snarky or uncharitable? I certainly did not intend to be. When was I?

  22. I've seen a great conversation going all day and I'm loving it! This is just a reminder to keep it up! Sarah - thanks for jumping in with the reminder! I get email alerts every time there is a comment and I've been enjoying the back and forth all day! (Just so you all know, I work full-time that's why I haven't been replying to everyone's comments or jumping in!)

    Gwen, yes, I've got a Left-leaning post tomorrow and then Thurs and Fri are another right and left post, but more middle of the aisle for both of them. (I know Leila already answered this, but I wanted you to reply too)!

    I'm heading out for a run, but I'll be back to chime in a little bit later!

  23. Sarah, I also am confused at the snarkiness comment. If I have been snarky, I apologize. I am enjoying the discussion.

    I understand that you did not say the Republican platform supports torture, but that, in fact, is my point. To claim you can't be a Republican because some Republicans support torture doesn't make sense to me. To me, it's like saying, "I can't be Catholic because some Catholics use contraception." Now, there may be perfectly legitimate reasons to not be a Republican- as I stated above, I do not consider myself to be one- though I am closely allied with them, but because some Rs agree with something doesn't make sense to me.

    Also- it's obviously your choice, of course, but it seems like not voting at all only achieves removing your voice. I've been in that position and know the frustrations of the "lesser of two evils" in candidates, but I do wonder if not voting is the best answer. I'm about to face this decision with a governor's race in my home state and my husband and I are praying hard about what to do! Our first choice did not make the primary. Sigh...

  24. I really enjoy reading the post/comments even if I strongly disagree with what's written. I am also very grateful that it's possible to have discussion/debate here. I'm sorry too if I've been uncharitable/snarky. I don't take personal offense to comments easily and sometimes need to be reminded other people might not be so thick skinned.


  25. Lauren,

    Your analogy is interesting, but I don't think it fits entirely. Torture is not mentioned in the Republican party platform. This is true. Which means, that Repubs who support it are *not* violating any plank of their party platform. Politicians have power. If I vote for a candidate who supports torture, and they get elected, they have power. They can work to pass bills that will make it easier to torture people who are suspected of terror plots (or whatever else the government deems a threat).

    On the other hand, Catholics who use (or support the use of) Contraception are acting in direct violation of a teaching of the Church. Also, the average Catholic who uses contraception has no power (as a Catholic). The Church is not a democracy, so we don't get a vote in how things are done, or what the teachings are. If an individual Catholic uses contraception, they don't have the power to introduce a bill that would, say, mandate a change in the Church's teaching on contraception. If they did, and I voted for them, I would be supporting someone who supported something that I *knew* was wrong, and who had the power to make it more widespread. I just can't do that.

    There are enough Republicans, who, if not staunch supporters of torture, have done nothing to stop its use either. I consider this unacceptable. That said, if a Republican candidate (such as McCain) doesn't support (and by this I mean vocally opposes) the non-negotiables, there's a good chance I would vote for him/her. I just don't want to identify myself as either a Democrat or a Republican. Frankly I think they're all (politicians in general) mostly a bunch of fools.

    I sympathize with your plight in who to vote for, my husband and I have been through similar. We weren't super-excited about McCain, but thought he was the better choice.

    I actually pretty much hate politics, I'm not sure why I agreed to write a post for this, ha. ;)

  26. So, maybe it's a cop out, but I think I'll be writing my own post in response to all of those that will be posted this week. Reading all of the comments is helping me to make better sense of why I stand where I do. (And hey, this is my blog ;) ).

    That said, I find it interesting that abortion is on the list of 'non-negotiables' but 'killing' in general (re: war) is not.

    And, as a teacher 'the protection of the rights of parents to educate their children' is also interesting to me. Was it not a Republican-led bill that brought us "No Child Left Behind" (just ask any teacher what they think of it and then stand back)? If this is what is seen as protecting parents rights to educate their children, then we are seriously missing the boat. I'm not saying I'm a fan of teacher unions (or that I'm not, I see good and bad there). They make it very hard to get rid of bad teachers, but I shudder to think what teachers would earn (salary-wise) if it weren't for them.

  27. The Commandment that says "Thou Shalt Not Kill" is better translated as "Thou Shall Not Murder." A cop killing an aggressor, a citizen killing an aggressor in self-defense, and soldiers killing combatants in war have never been considered "murder." Some killing has always been permissible. The direct killing of civilians, non-aggressors or innocents never has been permitted. There's a lot on war/just war principle in the Catechism.

    I've got lots of opinions on education, but that will be saved for a post on my blog.

    I look forward to reading your post, Rebecca, and the other ladies'!

  28. Wow, the comments exploded the last few hours!

    Rebecca - of course, this is off the cuff, but I believe there's something even in the catechism (?? - again...I'll have to go grab mine and check) on the fact that countries have the right to protect themselves and therefore there is something called Just War theory. Again...Just War would be something that would be more subjective and therefore probably not fall in with "non-negotiables" regarding the intrinsically evil line. I mean, if the U.S. were invaded (or attacked like 9-11) the U.S. should be allowed to defend itself and if that means fighting back, that would not be immoral. As a matter of fact, an argument could be made that if a government did not protect its citizens, THAT would be immoral.

    Sarah and Leila...you both used a couple of terms/lines from my post later this week! No cheating! (just a laughing comment!)

  29. Just wanted to chime in on killing in time of war: "just wars" are technically allowed for Catholics, but the war in Iraq was opposed by Pope John Paul II from the beginning and some argue that no modern wars count as just. http://www.americancatholic.org/news/justwar/iraq/ One could in fact see an issue with voting for politicians who support wars which do not meet the standards of "just war theory" but that is a whole 'nother post!