John Carr, the founder and director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Teaching and Public Life at Georgetown University who served for more than two decades as the director of the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, writes:
For years, I have said that I often feel politically homeless as a pro-life, social justice, consistent-ethic Catholic. This is not a badge of honor. If we Catholics are politically homeless, it is because we have failed to build a home. Sometimes we cannot even find shelter.
Our homelessness has many causes. We have not persuaded others to share our commitment to protect all human life and promote the dignity of all God’s children. Powerful partisan factions and ideological interests have emphasized personal autonomy and freedom over community and solidarity. Our church too often proclaims positions, rather than listening and learning, engaging and dialoguing in a search for the common good….
Defenseless unborn children have a compelling claim on our consciences as a matter of justice and our duty to protect “the least of these.” We must oppose the destruction of the lives of children before birth, and we must recognize the scale and gravity of this issue. And just as the unborn have a special claim on our consciences, so too do those who suffer from the legacy of slavery and continuing racial injustice have a unique claim on our consciences and action. We must be clear that Black lives matter, especially when Black Americans are being killed before our eyes. When Covid-19 leads to the deaths of more than 185,000 Americans, when an economic crisis, health and other disparities disproportionately threaten the poor, vulnerable and communities of color, I believe the protection of the lives and dignity of all God’s children should be the moral imperative in this election year.
The fundamental test is whether we truly recognize the humanity of the unborn child, the full equality of people of color and the God-given dignity of those who suffer injustice. Sadly, Americans do not have a realistic option this November to cast a vote for a candidate who fully meets that test….
So what is a faithful Catholic citizen to do? We should reflect, discuss, engage, discern and decide; and at the same time, we should respect the consciences and choices of other Catholics…
While Republican politicians promise pro-lifers anti-abortion judicial nominees, they often deliver judges who vote against voting rights, immigrant rights, workers’ rights, affirmative action and environmental justice as well—and whose decisions related to abortion are often disappointing to the pro-lifers convinced that appointment of judges is the most essential political goal.
In the end, we vote for candidates, not issues. Who they are and how they lead is critical…
I will exercise my prudential judgement to vote for the candidate who has the character, integrity and competence to serve; who will seek the common good and protect our democratic institutions; and who will do the least harm and the most good within our political and constitutional structures. And since neither of our present options reflects a full commitment to the Gospel, I am committed to work for better choices in our politics, parties and nation….
While I understand that others will come to different conclusions, my personal choice to support Vice President Biden is clear, but not without reservation. To frame this judgment in the words of “Faithful Citizenship,” I believe Mr. Trump’s character, lack of integrity and record on racism and Covid-19, among other matters, constitute “morally grave reasons” to oppose his re-election. I believe Mr. Biden has the “character [and] integrity” to lead our nation and is “more likely to pursue other authentic human goods.” I will vote for Mr. Biden for what he can do to help us recover and heal, lift up those left behind, ensure health care for all and treat immigrants and refugees with respect. I will not vote for him to support his position on abortion, but in spite of it.
For those who vote for Mr. Biden for similar reasons, we should be clear with ourselves, the Biden campaign, the Democratic Party and the American people that our votes to end Mr. Trump’s time in office and turn away from the chaos he foments are not a mandate to end all abortion restrictions, provide federal funding for abortions or to undermine religious ministries that serve the poor and vulnerable consistent with the principles of their faith. To the contrary: A vote for Mr. Biden carries with it a duty to work with others to reduce abortions and to support priorities, programs and ministries that serve women, children and families in need. Our responsibilities as citizens begin in the voting booth, but they do not end there.