Do you feel a twinge of despair at what is happening in the American political stadium?
Are there any Catholic voters daunted at the prospect of having to choose between two narcissist egomaniacs come November, to say nothing of the bizarre characters parading about in the Republican primary?
Are you irked by the relentless, dumbed-down dualism of Left-Right, Liberal-Conservative, bi-partisan politics? Are you tired of the exaggerations, the insinuations, the false claims, the ready embrace of untruth?
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Can it be that all Catholics are either ardently Republican or Democrat, given that the fact both parties are thoroughly suffused with and perverted by lobbies, plutocracy, litigiousness, exorbitant privileges (including insider-trading for Congress), and insultingly thoughtless rhetoric? Trial lawyers, media interests, unions, and the over-sexed seem to dominate the one, while corporate executives, financiers, war hawks, and anti-intellectuals apparently lead the other.
Come election time, when the executive branch is up for grabs, the parties escalate their quarrels about how best to arrange taxes, security, abortion, welfare, equality, freedom, war, and the like. Extremist rhetoric seems the preferred mode of communication, even though both parties agree to a depressingly similar fiscal irresponsibility, foreign policy without justice, and endless amounts of self-adulation. The one routinely confuses patriotism for jingoism, the other liberty for license. It’s like watching a march of the seven deadly sins.
By now, let’s assume that Manichean party devotees have stopped reading in offended, self- righteous disgust.
For those of us left over, let’s take a break and indulge in a moment of escapism. Imagine what it would be like to have an alternative to the left-right mania, for example, a Catholic Center Party.
Imagine a political party meant to represent and advance the civil interests of the great, growing, diverse Catholic community in the USA, which is found in every state and bridges all the supposed divisions of race, ethnicity, age, sex/gender, and class. This party would openly and constantly embrace the dignity of every human life from conception till natural death. It would acknowledge the sovereignty of God over the world he created and has given to us as a gift, one that we must cherish, maintain, and protect.
Based on this a priori assumption, the party platform could include the following positions on the key issues of common concern, arranged here in alphabetical order:
Abortion: Drastically reduce the killing of innocent human lives in vitro from the current one million or more per year (regardless of which party is in power).
Death Penalty: Put a stop to it, not only for moral consistency, but also because of irreversible errors and ridiculous legal costs. Furthermore, the USA can afford to leave the unpleasant company of Iran, Iraq, South Africa, Russia, and China on this issue.
Economy: Let human freedom work in the market place, but let the governing powers intervene to guard against wanton abuse.
Education: Make sure parents have the first responsibility for their children’s education. Let the family be prior to the state in all considerations, within the rule of law.
Environment: We must care for creation as the good stewards we are expected to be. Pope Benedict XVI has made this point repeatedly: nature is not just there for economic exploitation.
Government: On the local, state, and federal level, subsidiarity and solidarity should be the first consideration. Let the constitutionalism that has served us so well for over two centuries continue to guide us.
Health Care: Look around the world for the best examples in terms of per capita cost and performance and make a sincere effort to emulate them. Establish it with a thorough reform of tort law, which will cut insurance and other costs significantly.
Marriage: Strengthen the root institution of human life in manifold ways. As said above, the family is prior to the state! Make, therefore, legal divorce longer, tougher, and less frivolous than it currently is.
Religion: Make sure that the separation of church and state means that the state keeps its hands off the church.
Taxation: Let it be clear, simple, and uncorrupted by legions of lawyers. Let rates be graduated and proportional, so that those with more than $100 million pay a higher percentage than the median earner.
Warfare: Pursue only demonstrably just wars. Prefer defense over offensive adventures. Scale back runaway military spending. Let patriotism take other forms than throwing money at the Pentagon and the defense companies.
Welfare: Be generous but firm. Distinguish between the deserving and undeserving poor. Those who cannot take care of themselves should accept their status as wards of the state, residing where state agencies say and performing the jobs assigned to them. No benefits should go to those engaged in crime and those who fail routine drug testing. Take special care of children and mothers left in the lurch.
Now it is time to wake up.
It may be pleasant to imagine a USA with a Catholic Center party, but it’s a pipe dream. Virtually the only thing the two domineering parties agree upon is that there shall be no third alternative. The whole system, from the districts to the White House, is based on a bi-partisan assumption. One might venture to argue that we do not have a real democratic republic in the USA any more, but rather a bi-partisan oligarchy. Either way, we Americans, obsessed with sports of all varieties, do not really mind political playoff and championship games. We thrive on the exhilaration of us vs. them. May the best (i.e. most popular) team win, this time around. We probably enjoy the suspense, excitement, and hullabaloo more than we ought.
We also need to be realistic in another way. A multiplicity of parties is no guarantee of clean, orderly, civil politics. A Catholic Center Party might be an interesting idea, but it would not amount to more than just another political association that concerns itself with money and the power of office, both with a strong downward pull.
So what then must we do? There is no harm in resigning ourselves to choosing the lesser among two or more evils. Because human beings matter more than money, maybe for many the vote will be given according to the candidate’s stance on life. We can only hope that person will do something to make a difference.
The state cannot save you or me or anyone else. It was never meant to. There is only one true savior. Christ clearly distinguished his kingdom from that of the world, his reign from Caesar’s, religion from politics, something the local and imperial government establishment in his day could not tolerate. So they tried to get rid of him, but they failed, ultimately, like so many brutal regimes ever since. No matter how we vote come November, we can always pray for his mercy.
Forgive us, O Lord, for we know not what we do.