There’s another aspect to a sensible Catholic response to the “abortion trumps all” argument for voting Republican. On Saturday, I offered my thinking on why you can recognize abortion for the grave moral issue that it is and still not be committed to voting Republican in the upcoming presidential election. A bizarre moment of the Republican convention last week raises another important point to be made.
I’m referring to that uncomfortable rising oceans joke that Mitt Romney offered us during his acceptance speech: “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans [pause for laughter] and heal the planet [pause for laughter]. My promise is to help you and your family.” (Video here.)
In thirty seconds, Mr. Romney dismissed global warming and efforts to avoid the environmental disaster that looms over us all, suggested that he thinks such efforts are not in the interest of individuals and their families, and effectively assured us that he would not bother himself with such risable efforts (despite, as many have pointed out, the fact that just a few years ago he was openly speaking about the dangers of man-made climate change and committing state money to addressing the issue).
And so, as some argue that a real Catholic votes for Romney because of the moral calculus, the weight of the killing of millions of innocent unborn babies who die every year thanks to laws that the Democratic party supports, we have to ask:
What if the person you’re considering voting for supports policies that help assure the exposure of hundreds of millions of people to drastically reduced amounts of fresh water availability, radically reduced agricultural yields, more frequent and intense heat waves, more frequent flash floods, more frequent coastal flooding, death and suffering from diseases associated with floods and droughts, the gradual replacement of tropical forest by savannah in South America, and the loss of many species on the planet? In fact, what if the person you’re considering voting for leads a party so beholden to fringe groups firmly committed to the position that such risks as listed above do not even exist, that the candidate avoids even acknowledging them publicly, much less actually doing something about avoiding these risks?
Of course, these so-called risks are just blabbering from the elite, liberal media who want to use fear to advance their own pet projects, based on some pseudo-sciencific … oh, no wait they’re from NASA, on its website dedicated to climate change, offering the findings of a massive collaborative scientific study that has been called “the most extensively peer reviewed science document in history.”
Conservative Republicans want to say, “Compared to millions of dead babies, a few million poor people who have it hard just don’t stack up.” In the same spirit, one might say, “Compared to hundreds of millions of people starving and dying of thirst and fighting wars over water, a few million babies don’t weigh as much.” As conservatives say, “If you don’t have a right to life, you don’t have anything,” one might note, “If you don’t have a livable planet, you don’t have anything.”
Note: This is not the argument I’m making — certainly not in these ghastly terms. The original argument — weighing babies against everything else in the name of solid unity with a single party’s platform — is part of the problem. Pope John Paul II had no such difficulties:
I should like to address directly my brothers and sisters in the Catholic Church, in order to remind them of their serious obligation to care for all of creation…. Respect for life and for the dignity of the human person extends also to the rest of creation, which is called to join man in praising God (cf. Ps 148: 96).
What I’m saying is this: It’s a mistake to suggest that orthodox Catholic faith means a vote for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan is a slam sunk. It’s a mistake to suggest that those who would vote for Barack Obama are, by the very fact of voting for him, somehow abdicating their responsibility to stand up for life, for what is right and good and true.
Does that make voting for Barack Obama a slam dunk? No, it’s not. He and his party present some major social-moral problems of their own. I’m saying: Let’s be realistic and honest. Let’s give up being members of a party before all else and be, first of all, disciples of Jesus, members of the Church he’s given us, and members of the human family.