The country is watching as state by state we search for the next President of the United States. Often times, without much coordinated thought, we struggle to apply the candidates positions, life styles, and record to our own value system. And while at times, each of the candidates messages tend to resonate with what we know, what we think we know, or what the culture tells us we know, perhaps now is the time for us to re-evaluate and establish our schematic for what we believe to be right for us as individuals and for the common good of our Nation. At this point in the race I’m advocating for Rick Santorum. While many of the candidates embrace the basic principles that I apply to moral decision making, Senator Santorum best embodies those principles on a whole. Allow me to explain.
As a Catholic, I employ a particular framework in making moral choices, and indeed choosing the next President of the United States is a moral choice. You may or may not find this framework applicable to your individual circumstance, or perhaps you will. Either way, I offer it to you the reader, and then ask you to at least work on developing your own basic criteria for making political choices that affect you, your families, your neighbors and your communities. If somehow the culture has placed it into your stream of consciousness that religion has no place in politics, I challenge you to find where in any of our founding documents the notion that people of faith have no business bringing their moral schematics to the political arena. The much maligned 1st Amendment to the Constitution states that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This in no way precludes the inclusion of religious thought or moral application in the public arena.
First let’s lay out three basic sets of principles and then apply them to four particular issues where the Church is most vocal. The first basic principle is that man is made in the likeness and image of God, and in so has inherent dignity that can never be stripped from him. The second and third basic principle are the two great Commandments, “‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.’…And …’Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.'” The four issues that I will apply them to are: Reverence for Life, Human Dignity, Family Life & Marriage, and Religious Liberty.
Reverence for Life
Human Life is the most fundamental of all human rights; without the basic right to human life, there is no other right that we can afford a human being. Respect and Reverence for human life is the foundational issue. It is imperative that any politician that represents an electorate respects and defends all human life from conception to natural death. Over the past century science and biotechnology have grown in leaps and bounds creating whole sets of ethical dilemmas to challenge our ever developing culture. At times it can be difficult to see the forest for the trees, and it is at precisely those times that we have to apply the basic moral framework of respecting and protecting life, in all of its stages. This means that we do not directly end life in order to advance the life or lifestyle of another, as in the case of abortion, embryonic stem cell research, cloning, and euthanasia. While on the surface those issues may seem to make some logical sense, there are a whole host of effects and moral wrongs that result such as the post abortion suffering of women and men that have chosen abortion, the slippery slope of killing the elderly, poor and disabled out of a sense of convenience or compassion, and objectifying our brothers and sisters as things to be used for the satisfaction of others; thereby stripping them of their dignity. Some of these issues, such as abortion and euthanasia, have been legalized in our country, and when “when an action is made legal there develops an assumption that it is moral”, thereby creating the infamous slippery slope. The slope has become so slippery that over 50 million lives have been lost to abortion in the United States since the Roe v Wade, Supreme Court Decision. The idea that we would end a life to advance our own is as anti-American a sentiment as any I can think of. When declaring our independence from a tyrannical England, our founders immortalized the words “ We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” America can not afford a morality that devalues human life; otherwise, we rob our Nation of its greatest resource. It is critical that our next President be a person that will Defend Life in all of its stages.
The issue of Human Dignity includes a variety of sub issues from human trafficking, housing, access to food, health care, fair working wages, employment, discrimination… While people of good faith may differ on how to approach these challenges, it is important that our leadership develops and supports systems that will provide security and safety for all. I think we can agree that in the area of human trafficking our political leaders are fairly unanimous in their approach. I also think that another area of agreement (all name calling aside) our leadership is an agreement that discrimination is wrong and should not be tolerated in a civilized society. However, I know there are broad definitions of discrimination that now exist, and I will touch on those while addressing some of the other four issues. With regard to employment, wages, health care and food security, while our brothers and sisters in the democrat party believe that providing a whole range of social services will ensure security and safety, most conservative and libertarian minded people believe that the best way to provide security and safety is by establishing an economic environment of opportunity. In the Papal Encyclical, Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo XIII cautioned well intended people to not fall prey to the Utopian ideal of socialism which ultimately robs man of his dignity by stripping him of both his rights and his responsibilities and abdicating those rights and responsibilities to the state. Pope Leo spoke to the symbiotic relationship of capital and labor and their mutual obligations to one another; he spoke of the evils of anyone or anything that attempted to create animus between the two (think modern day unions). He also spoke of unbridled capitalism and the need to temper capitalism with charity. Pope John Paul II in 1991 marked the 100 year anniversary of Rerum Novarum by writing a companion piece; he recognized the wisdom and relevance of this amazing document in today’s world. I believe it to be the most teaching and inspiring document to the morality of labor and capital ever written. While I do think there should be some temporary safety nets for the poor, hungry, sick, and unemployed, I also think it has been very wrongheaded of us to establish “entitlement programs” that, while established with good intent, have crippled generations of people and robbed them or their dignity. It also robs every day citizens of their duty to care for others and hands off that duty to the state. Today economic security is quite uncertain for our nation as we have incrementally bought into the Utopian ideal of a social welfare system. This issue is so fundamental at this point in our Nation’s history, that electing a leader that will support a just economic environment may just determine the survival of this Great Country.
Family Life & Marriage
Marriage is a thousands of years old institution that involves one man and one woman. While beating the drums of discrimination, many have heaved the name of bigot at those that would dare to defend the eons old definition. Because of the heavy handed approach of many, including those in government that desire to change the definition of marriage, many Catholics, and non-Catholic Christians and their institutions, have themselves been treated with hatred and discrimination. Many of our Catholic Charitable services have been prevented from operating or receiving funding in states where they previously provided much needed services to the poor, the elderly, the disable, the crippled…. As Catholics, we believe that marriage is instituted by God and is a lifelong and exclusive relationship between one man and one woman. We believe that the nature of this relationship is both life giving and love giving. And, that while men and women were created equal they are also different in that they are complimentary (or made for each other). This fundamental relationship is the foundation of society and is the underpinning from which our first communities are upheld. The attack on families from our government institutions (whether through economic policies or social policies) has resulted in a weakening of the building blocks of our society. We have a welfare system that encourages single parenthood in order to receive benefits. We have a tax system that penalizes marriage. While at the same time, the number one indicator of poverty is single parenthood. Rick Santorum stated that he had a two step plan to eliminate poverty,”Number one, graduate from high school. Number two, get married. Before you have children.” Please, Mr. next President, defend families and the institution of marriage. Perform your civic and Presidential duty by defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which is the law of the land.
“The First Amendment is a guarantee that government will mind its own limited, secular, non-religious business, so that the people can enjoy their natural right to religious liberty” (Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Curry). While we live in a pluralistic society under a constitution that guarantees religious freedoms, over the past few decades those religious freedoms have been eroded, from the banning of prayer in public schools (please tell me how prayer in school establishes a National Church), the violation of the conscience rights of health care workers and health care providers, to the closing of charitable institutions such as Catholic Charities because Catholic Charities does not recognize gay marriage, and does not place children with unmarried couples. This overreach of power is malicious in its nature and discriminatory in its scope. Daily, Christians are humiliated and belittled publicly, in print, and in all forms of media. This same type of bigotry, if perpetrated on “favored” protected groups, would land the perpetrators in jail and/or in prison. Pope John Paul II in his address to diplomats in 2005 said, “At the very heart of human freedom is the right to religious freedom, since it deals with man’s most fundamental relationship: his relationship with God.” Our President is Constitutionally bound to protect our religious liberty.
These basic issues of Reverence for Life, Human Dignity, Marriage & Family, and Religious Liberty are among the core issues that affect the basis of our culture. How our leaders treat each of these issues can be measured and viewed through the lenses of dignity and love of neighbor. Rick Santorum, in a “gotcha moment” during the NBC GOP Presidential debate, was asked how he would react if one of his sons announced he was gay. Santorum responded, “I’d love him just as much as I did the second before he told me.” That is how we are called to respond to those we disagree with. And understand, because I disagree with you, because I will not give in to your demands, does not mean I do not love you. As I stated above, all of the candidates seeking the GOP nomination embrace the cores principles for some of the issues I mentioned above; however, I am throwing my hat in the Santorum 2012 ring. His past, his present, and his promise for the future most closely fit the moral framework that I use to choose my political leaders. I believe that we are at a precipice, and we have the opportunity to choose a President in Rick Santorum, that will not be mediocre, will not be good, but that has the capacity to be GREAT.
Again, please take the time to develop your moral framework for choosing public leaders; you’re welcome to mine if you’d like, but do form and inform your conscience and choices.
Louisa Millington is a proud mom of four children and has been married to her husband Tim for 21 years. She has spent her adult life in service to Life & Dignity issues. In 1994, with her husband and a small group of people from the Lake Arrowhead area, Louisa opened Veronica’s Maternity Home. Hundreds of children have been born out of Veronica’s Home and hundreds of women have changed their lives through the housing, education, life training, and love provided by Veronica’s Home. In 1996 Louisa began to work with the Respect Life Office of the Diocese of San Bernardino and since then has been fortunate to work on legislative issues and projects on a local, state and national level. She considers herself blessed to have had so many opportunities to serve and equally blessed by the friends and acquaintances she has made along the way.