Only by withholding the vote from unacceptable candidates, will Catholics eventually become able to “choose between candidates who are in agreement on the fundamental social teaching of the Church.”
The Supreme Knight began his address on Friday evening by acknowledging the “sad state of today's political environment,” characterized by “the intransigence and the partisanship” that “make the search for solutions virtually impossible.”
Catholics, he said, “are uniquely positioned to offer a solution” to this dilemma, through fidelity to the Church's teachings.
This transformation, Anderson suggested, requires a commitment to civility in the discussion of controversial issues. Since Christians hope for the salvation even of their “most strident adversaries,” they must seek “the conversion, not the destruction” of political opponents.
Catholics can also change American society by implementing the Church's vision of charity, which is “not simply a mechanism for the more efficient or cost-effective delivery of social services.” Rather, it is rooted in the value of solidarity, “the Christian vision that we are our brother’s keeper.”
Alongside these commitments to civility and charity, Anderson called on U.S. Catholics to make a “consistent commitment to the social teaching of our Church” for the good of the nation.
The Supreme Knight, who was directly involved in national politics during the 1970s and 1980s, recounted his decision to leave the Reagan administration “to serve a higher calling and to promote key elements of Catholic social teaching beyond the political realm.”
“As I told President Reagan then,” he recalled, “I believed these issues could not simply be limited to – or dismissed as – the domain of a single political party.”
During the 1980s, however, key principles of Church teaching were abandoned by a generation of Catholic politicians – beginning with former New York Governor Mario Cuomo – who proclaimed themselves “personally opposed” to abortion, but unwilling to restrict it in law.
But Cuomo's argument, Anderson noted, had a “fatal flaw,” since science proved the full humanity of the unborn child “irrespective of one’s religious conviction.” The pro-life movement did not seek to impose religion, but to extend the protection of innocent life found in “every civilized society.”
Nonetheless, the “Cuomo doctrine” spawned “a generation of 'pro-choice' Catholic politicians.” The result, according to the Supreme Knight, “has been a political stalemate on the abortion issue for nearly three decades.”
“But there was also another effect,” he said. “Governor Cuomo’s rationale created an environment in which it became easier for candidates to dismiss other principles of Catholic social teaching.”
(Story continues below)
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“So every election year many Catholic voters see their choice as between the lesser of two evils. They face candidates who argue that while they may not be consistent with Catholic values on all issues, they are consistent on some and that should be good enough. But it is not good enough.”
“And as bad as this situation is, it has produced an even worse result. It has blocked the potential of Catholic social teaching to transform our nation's politics.”
America's political parties have been dramatically transformed in the past, Anderson noted, as in the case of the Democratic Party's rejection of segregation during the 1960s.
At present, he suggested, a similar change in American politics is not just possible, but necessary.
The supposed “truce” between Catholics and a hostile culture – brokered by Cuomo and other “personally opposed” politicians – has been shattered by the Obama administration, Anderson said.
“This year many Catholics sense that this 'peaceful co-existence' with secular culture has ended as a result of the HHS mandate,” the Supreme Knight said, pointing to the federal rule forcing virtually all employers to cover contraception, sterilization, and abortion-causing drugs in their health plans.