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Food for the Poor Godspy.com: Faith at the Edge


Angelo Matera | 03.06.08


None of the Above: The Only Vote Worth Casting in November?

Photo Credit: Adapted from image by M500

As I listened to John McCain’s victory speech Tuesday night, spelling out the themes of his general election campaign—no apologies for the Iraq war, fight the “global war on terror” like it’s World War IV, keep taxes low, and global markets free—in other words, stay the course, the harsh reality of having to choose between him and Obama/Clinton this November began to hit me.

On the one hand, despite Obama’s hope-filled rhetoric, I don’t see the Democrats moving away from their pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, anti-school choice, and generally anti-religious approach to government (I hope I’m wrong but I doubt it). I get the sense that the politically correct thought police are just waiting to get back in power, so they can wipe out any remaining expressions of traditional values in society.

I also don’t see the Dems offering any solution for what is—from the point of view of Catholic Social Teaching—an intolerable economic situation for working families. 

The reason is simple: the Dems rely on contributions from the same hedge fund and financial money that funds the Republicans, so they can’t say boo about the extreme bias that exists in our economy in favor of capital, and against family wage earners. The only thing they can offer is band-aid government programs that treat the symptoms, not the disease, and that always leads to more taxes on the middle class and more government bureaucracy to support the people left behind by the global economy.

This became clear to me a when I watched a glowing Obama accept the endorsement of Ted Kennedy. Haven’t we been there, and done that? If you need to be reminded of the failures of the welfare state, just watch any episode of The Wire. (For a hint of an alternative “Third Way” approach, read Philip Blond’s recent column in the International Herald Tribune on “The Failure of Neoliberalism”, where he discusses the failure, in England, of both the free market policies of Margaret Thatcher, and the liberal policies of Tony Blair).

On the other hand, I don’t see how you can reward the Republicans for their failed military and economic policies, which have wrecked the country. Getting two pro-life (we hope) Supreme Court justices does not make up for a destabilized Middle East, $2 trillion in projected costs for the Iraq war, mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures at record levels, dangerously high levels of household credit card debt, out-of-control health care insurance costs, a plummeting dollar, not to mention harsh, un-Catholic stances on immigration, the death penalty, and torture, all combined with McCain’s wishy-washy positions on abortion and gay marriage, and his outright support for embryonic stem cell research.

The US Bishops have issued an intelligent, nuanced (if muddled) statement on “forming consciences for faithful citizenship,” that helps Catholics sort out the key issues of “human life and dignity, marriage and family, war and peace, the needs of the poor and the demands of justice.” It falls somewhere in-between a rigid “5 most important issues” approach, and a bland “seamless garment” stance that is too soft on life issues, although it still falls short in applying Catholic Social Teaching and the complementary principles of solidarity and subsidiarity as rigorously as the Church’s social encyclicals do.

That’s why I find myself considering another possibility—the position proposed by the Catholic moral philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, during the 2004 presidential election between George Bush and John Kerry, which advocated a “none of the above” choice.

MacIntyre’s 1984 book, After Virtue, made a powerful, impossible-to-ignore argument against moral relativism, and for a return to “virtue ethics,” that rocked the field of philosophy. In his short but well-argued 2004 statement, entitled “The Only Vote Worth Casting,” he said:

“…Try to promote the pro-life case that we have described within the Democratic Party and you will at best go unheard and at worst be shouted down. Try to advance the case for economic justice as we have described it within the Republican Party and you will be laughed out of court. Above all, insist, as we are doing, that these two cases are inseparable, that each requires the other as its complement, and you will be met with blank incomprehension. For the recognition of this is precluded by the ideological assumptions in terms of which the political alternatives are framed. Yet at the same time neither party is wholeheartedly committed to the cause of which it is the ostensible defender. Republicans happily endorse pro-choice candidates, when it is to their advantage to do so. Democrats draw back from the demands of economic justice with alacrity, when it is to their advantage to do so. And in both cases rhetorical exaggeration disguises what is lacking in political commitment.

In this situation a vote cast is not only a vote for a particular candidate, it is also a vote case for a system that presents us only with unacceptable alternatives. The way to vote against the system is not to vote.”

MacIntyre is one of the world’s most influential moral philosophers, whose work has helped bring Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas back into the philosophical mainstream. Before Catholics quietly fade into the McCain vs. Obama (or Clinton) political background, it’s a good idea to give his proposal serious consideration. I know I will.

And if I decide against it, and actually vote, it will probably be because I’m voting for a write-in candidate: Alasdair MacIntyre.

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TOPICS:    cst | macintyre | mccain | obama

By freethinkingtheist AT 03.06.08 09:19PM Not Rated


I so relate to your quandry and I think that regardless of our political orientation, this election is trying many of our deeper convictions and leaving us to face choosing between the eventual two dualing ‘evils.’  On one hand, we can be completely true to ourselves and push the grossly unappetizing plate away and refuse to partake or we can choke it down and realize that we can still try to exert our influence and deal with the imperfection of it all.  The three current candidates appear to be rather ‘lax on life,’ something that completely turns me off, but I am attracted to further limiting the loss of life in what is ‘offered’ by ending this unnecessary war and may therefore reluctantly swing back toward ‘blue.’  I personally believe it to be a critical time during which, rather than try to make a point with refusing to vote, it is vital that we set idealism aside and choose between the lame offerings while continuing our fights for life and justice amidst our communities.  We may end up voting ‘against’ as opposed to ‘for,’ but at least we’re still making a difference.

By damon AT 03.06.08 09:19PM Not Rated


Well said Angelo.

The frustration continues for people who see the pro-life constelation with all its stars shining brightly and try desperatly to point it out to the rest of the world, and explain why each of those stars needs the others to bring the big picture into focus.  We just keep pointing and they just keep saying, “Yes, I see this half of it!”  or, “That half of it.”  Someday.  Maybe never, perhaps not in this world.

So write in a President, but please participate in this incredibly imperfect democracy. Must we take the wieght of thousands of lives upon our single vote?

I fear if we simply jump off this plane, we might miss our chance to have any influence at all on the pilot.

By peterwilson1 AT 03.06.08 10:51PM Not Rated


If Alan Keyes is on the ticket…I’m absolutely voting!  Otherwise…I’ll watch SP;encer Tracey in THE LAST HURRAH.

By Angelo Matera AT 03.07.08 12:32AM Not Rated

Angelo Matera

To both Damon and Freethinkingtheist: I’m not at all advocating withdrawing from politics; on the contrary, refusing to accept the choices served up by the political parties is meant to shake up the system so that a full Catholic/Christian vision of the good society might enter the debate. It’s a way to engage the process more forcefully.

Maybe this can be done while choosing sides, but until we threaten not to participate, and at the same time articulate the reasons for our opting out, the parties will continue to treat the “Catholic vote” as a collection of single issues, and it will be business as usual.

By Harold Fickett AT 03.07.08 03:59PM Not Rated

Harold Fickett

As the movement known as the Agrarians reminded us, one of the happy circumstances of America’s founding consisted in the country’s broad-base of ownership—from small farmers to shop keepers. 

President Bush tried to begin a conversation about an “ownership society,” which was quickly dismissed because of its linkage to the proposed Social Security reforms.  But that idea needs to be revisited.  What if government saw its role as a fair arbiter more in terms of helping families at every income level enjoy the benefits of capital formation?  What if America saw “home economics” as a priority, with the restoration of one income-earner families? 

There are big issues involved, I know, but ones we should keep persuing here.

By chassup AT 03.07.08 05:05PM Not Rated


ANGELO MATERA, During the first elections in Iraq, the Sunnis refused to vote because they didn’t like the choices (truth be told, they didn’t like the idea of being in the minority). They quickly discovered that non-participation left them… well, in the minority, but now unrepresented.  Soon they accepted the idea of democracy and are now engaging, beginning to trust a system of tension as an acceptable replacement to totalitarism, of which they were more familiar.

In American politics, we get the candidates we deserve, that is—we are represented by candidates who represent the majority of voters. There is a stupid show on TV where contestants answer questions while hooked to a lie detector. I heard one question that sums up my idea here; the question was “Do you really care about starving children in Africa?” The answer was “yes,” but it was a lie. My point is that Americans cry about the lack of substantive choices we have at the polls, but the candidates are actually spot on reflections of our citizens. I hear a lot of complaining that we have empty suits, phonies, liars, corrupt insiders, non-committal flip-floppers and the same old same old.  Well, in my opinion, most Americans are just that, they say they want change, but what they really want is free stuff to subsidize and coddle their lives of indifference and vice. 

To “not vote” is to abdicate your duty to choose the lesser of evils if that’s your only option. If you “really” care about the candidates we have get involved. I don’t mean sending a check. I mean campaign, become proactive, seek out good candidates and work like a dog to present them to America. Stop acting like Christians—BE Christians.  Remember, Satan greases the skids for the worst candidates we have, virtuous candidates will always have to work harder.

By Angelo Matera AT 03.07.08 06:15PM Not Rated

Angelo Matera

Dear Chassup: Since unlike Iraq, we’re not a sectarian or tribal society, I don’t think that analogy works here. And even here, the “Catholic vote” is not an actual voting bloc, as blacks, hispanics, even Jews, tend to be, in very different ways, and to various degrees (some based on single issues, like Israel). So the stakes are not so high.

But that the stakes are not high is part of the problem, at least for someone whose identity is based on being a member of the Church, who takes the judgements of the Church very seriously.

I recognize that this is not the case for most Catholics; most don’t derive their political identity from the Church. They either identify strongly with a party, and for them, what I’ve written in this post doesn’t apply, or, they decide as individuals, political consumers, taking a cafeteria approach to politics. I don’t use the word “cafeteria” disparagingly. The fact that there are cafeteria Catholics is in many ways a failure of the Church, the same failure that makes Catholic Social Teaching so little known, and a non-presence in the political process.

John Allen wrote recently that for Catholics to organize politically, to form a “Center Party” as in Germany in the 19th century, is a non-starter. It might seem that way, and maybe he meant only in the short term. But I don’t agree. Anything new seems futile at first, but unless seeds of change are planted, nothing new ever happens.

By damon AT 03.07.08 11:08PM Not Rated


Now we are talking! 

The Right thinks the Left is wrong, the Left thinks the Right is wrong, they are both right, they are both wrong!

A “Center Party” founded on the basic truth that all issues should be viewed in the light of the absolute sanctity of human life.  Sign me up.  Where do we go from here?

By Joe Schriner AT 03.08.08 01:14AM Not Rated

Joe Schriner

I’m a Catholic of the ilk this publication seems to be about.  I am also an independent presidential candidate who has run in the past three election cycles.  My wife and I have given up our careers (because we just couldn’t sit by anymore as concerned, better yet “alarmed,” laity). And with our three children we have traveled some 82,000 campaign miles, to date.  Our message has been carried in more than 2,000 newspapers, almost 200 regional network TV news shows, hundreds of radio shows…  I have also talked in hundreds of Catholic churches across the country, many colleges (Xavier, University of Dayton, Franciscan University, Mississippi State University…)
  I am a former journalist who has spent the past 15 years doing extensive cross-country research for an expansive set of position papers.  It has been a “Listening Tour” in the purest sense of that term.
  Cleveland’s diocesan newspaper noted that my platform is based on “Catholic Social Teaching.”  And it is.
  I told the Herald Star in Stuebenville, Ohio, that we stand for a Consistent Life Ethic.  No abortion, no death penalty, no euthanasia, no embryonic stem cell research, no poverty, no pollution (you know what I mean)... or anything else that ends life prematurely.  On immigration, my family and I toured the border town of Juarez, Mexico, with a Catholic priest from Indiana who now runs an orphanage there.  He showed us the sweeping abject poverty (little kids starving, people living in cobbled together shacks with no running water, no electricity…  Then he took us to the fence and asked:  “What do you think Jesus would do with the fence?”  That was an easy one.
  At a monastery in Cottonwood, Idaho, I learned St. Benedict once said:  “We should treat God’s environment as we do the sacred vessels of the altar.”  Our platform reflects that.
  When it comes to agriculture, we are in line with Catholic Rural Life Association teaching.  We believe in “Preferential Option for the Poor” and have researched, at length, programs to significantly impact World Hunger and programs to help little kids trying to dodge needles, hunger and bullets in the inner cities of this country, and around the world.
  When we’re not on the road, our family lives in the inner city of Cleveland (intentionally) and we volunteer at a Catholic Worker outreach to the poor and we’ve set aside a room in our apartment (“Christ Room”) for the homeless.
  Before the Iraq War, I marched in a Peace Protest in Findlay, Ohio, and told a reporter fromt the Findlay Courier newspaper that the reason I was marching is because Pope John Paul II had said a pre-emptive strike into Iraq was the wrong approach.  And I posed this question to an ABC Reporter from Toledo that same day:  “What if we let the Weapons Inspectors into Montana?”  The point being, of course, that we’re telling these other nations they can’t have WMD’s—while we have some 10,000 of them aimed all over the world!  Wouldn’t the money going into these warheads be much better spent on the 24,000 people starving to death every day in the Third World?
  I could go on with this… but instead, I’d refer you to http://www.voteforjoe.com 
  Angelo… Before you do the “Non-Vote” thing, I’d ask you (and others) to sincerely check our campaign out.  It embodies what you guys seem to be about.  And even though a write-in campaign may seem, oh, a long shot, to quote, well, you:  “Anything can seem futile at first…”
  It would seem you guys have been waiting for a candidate like myself.  Instead of continuing to curse the darkness, it’s time to get behind us with more than just a vote, but rather: with all the energy you’ve got.
  in Christ and Our Lady (who is also the campaign manager) —Joe Schriner

By Angelo Matera AT 03.08.08 01:19AM Not Rated

Angelo Matera

I’ve ventured into dangerous territory here, and should clarify: I’m not advocating a Cathoiic political party. As Pope Benedict made clear in his recent encyclicals, the Church doesn’t get directly involved in poltics. It provides guidelines for judging social justice. That means no “Catholic” party. However, there is a long and relatively positive history of Christian Democratic parties around the world. It was such parties, led by Catholic visionaries like Konrad Adenaur, Alcide de Gaspari, and Robert Schumann, that rebuilt Europe after WWII. There’s even a nascent US party called the Christian Democratic Union that links itself to this movement. I have no idea if they’re serious, or fringe. The interesting thing about Christian Democracy is that it has two “founders”- one Catholic: Pope Leo XIII, and the other evangelical: Dutch neo-calvinist Abraham Kuyper. I’ve always thought the Democratic party was where such a movement could take root, but the success of Mike Huckabee triggered this articlein the Wall Street Journal, sounding the alarms bells about Christian democracy invading the Republican party.

By Angelo Matera AT 03.08.08 01:37AM Not Rated

Angelo Matera

Joe: I’m surprised I’ve never heard of you, and your bio seems almost too good to be true. But I promise I’ll look into your campaign. If you’re for real, what you’re doing shoud be shouted from the rooftops.

By Joe Schriner AT 03.08.08 03:30AM Not Rated

Joe Schriner

Angelo…  I am, indeed, for real.  During Campaign 2004 swing through Wisconsin, I told the La Cross News that, not only was I real, but I couldn’t see lying on my death bed some day, looking our children in the eye, and saying:  “I knew all this was going on (in the world)—but I was too busy making money.”  After you’ve taken some time to read the postion papers, etc., Angelo, let others know about us, if you would.  God has really given you a talent to write. —Joe Schriner Ps…As you allude to in your piece, our platform is all about treating the roots of society’s problems, not putting bandages on the symptoms.

By damon AT 03.08.08 07:42PM Not Rated



I send you encouragement, respect, and a world of support.  After reading up on you, I now feel I have a reason to stay involved, and something substantive to bring to political discussion.  There are all sorts of questions about the political details that such a platform will encompass.  However, when an ideology is built on a principle so simple and true, one need not worry about details.

Thank you, and know that in my little corner of the world, I am going to work for you right away.

Imagine that, a REAL Catholic in the White House!

By Marty AT 03.08.08 08:31PM Not Rated


I can’t just stay home. Most of the time, I try to find a third party candidate who shares my views. 

I would even vote for Joe. I don’t support his “Christian Life Ethic”  I want that fence. But since he does share many of my views, if he was on the ballot here in NYS I would cast a vote for him.

By mja AT 03.08.08 11:27PM Not Rated


Angelo,  you have legitimate reasons for being frustrated.

However, urge people to vote because in many states there are important initiatives on state ballots:
In Florida we have a Marriage Amendment on the ballot that we need to pass.

By Joe Schriner AT 03.09.08 12:38AM Not Rated

Joe Schriner

Damon… Thanks for taking the time to do the research and for your support of our campaign.  e-mail me if you want a bumper sticker, etc.  The whole thing is evolving right now as sort of a behind the scenes “loaves and fishes” phenomenon.

By Marty AT 03.09.08 04:20PM Not Rated


As Catholics, we want to work from the bottom up.  We need to have good candidates not only running for POTUS but for seats on local community boards,  city councils and congress.

By peterwilson1 AT 03.10.08 12:54AM Not Rated


Consistent life ethic (an historical definition):  a liberal philosophy of life that attempts to mute the holocaust of abortion by linking it with other lesser evils and then dodging it…The Nazis had a strong platform advocating animal rights, vegetarianism, middle-class economic resuscitation, health-care for all…coupled with extermination of the ‘unfit’.  And we all know now who ‘they’ were:  they were the unborn, the mentally-handicapped, gypsies, religious, homosexuals, Poles…and Jews.

By chassup AT 03.10.08 03:44PM Not Rated


Joe, I wish you all the best in your efforts, although I can’t tell you how much I hope you never get close to a national elected office. I mean no disrespect, and I believe you are nothing but sincere, but your platform could have been written by any number of activists over the past 100+ years seeking a “third way” political solution to the human condition, all of which lead to some form of totalitarianism.

Many of your solutions are right out of the same play books used by Marx, Hitler, Mussolini, Teddy Roosevelt, Wilson, FDR, JFK, LBJ and many other modern progressive liberal socialists crowding our political landscape today, including Hillary and Obama.  I am not equating you with Nazism or the brutality of any of those regimes, but your policy positions are undeniably similar to those I’ve listed.

I’ve spent some time reading your website and find that, although I believe you and I are united by the same divine light, we have very different philosophies concerning the role of government in our lives. That is to say, that which divides us is small compared to that which unites us. I just think you are wrong on the root causes of, and solutions to, many issues facing our world today. 

Funny thing: As your Catholic faith inspires you to your positions, mine does as well, it is interesting that we could have arrived at such disparate conclusions.  I’m sure we are both missing the mark in some way.

By Joe Schriner AT 03.10.08 04:32PM Not Rated

Joe Schriner

Chassup… To even intimate my political platform (http://www.voteforjoe.com) would be linked to Marx, Hitler, Mussolini… is absolutely nuts.  My platform is formed on tenents of Catholic Social teaching, across the board.  When John the Baptist was asked what the people should do.  He responded that if someone has two coats and someone else has none—we should give the person without the coat, a coat.  (This also means looking at the root cause of why the one person doesn’t have a coat in the first place.) That’s the essence of my platform. It’s been my experience over all these years of campaigning, that people who try to link our platform to communism, etc., are trying real hard to hold on to both their coats Chassup.  I think how the saying goes is:  “When I gave a man some food, they called me a saint.  When I started to ask why the man was hungry, they called me a communist.”  Ps… I’m not missing the mark my friend.

By eric AT 03.10.08 06:42PM Not Rated


Angelo, I think you’re unjustified on several points. 

First, we ought not view elections as a system of punishment/reward for our represtentatives.  If they represent your values and political interests well, vote for them, otherwise don’t.  But punishment and reward is a foolish motive.

Second, how can you blame the President—ANY president—for “mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures at record levels, dangerously high levels of household credit card debt?”  These are all the result of individuals behaving unwisely.  I would like to hear you explain what the president might do, given his constitutional job description, to prevent individuals from incurring bad debt.

Finally, you are totally unjustified in calling the administration’s stance on immigration “un-Catholic.”  This is patently false, and it implies that those who hold similar positions are either not catholic, or are set in opposition to the magisterium.

By chassup AT 03.10.08 07:05PM Not Rated


Joe, I was careful to express to you that I do not link you to communism, I merely point out that you use a similar approach to solving the human condition, and that is through government fiat. I am very familiar with Catholic social teaching, and I am forever frustrated when people find all kinds of “thou shalts” that just aren’t there. Yes, cloth the naked, but don’t think a government policy of forced redistribution of wealth will achieve anything but discontent, ingratitude and a deepening indifference. Catholic teaching invites, it never imposes.  Catholic teaching preaches love between human persons, and advocates that political leaders find solutions founded on love and freedom.  Revisit every one of your positions and apply my rule:  The political solution to the human condition is always liberty.

By Gypsy Boots AT 03.10.08 07:36PM Not Rated

Gypsy Boots


Regarding “harsh, un-Catholic” immigration stances, I think you’ll agree that John McCain has consistently championed a balanced, compassionate immigration policy, and has suffered for it from hard-right restrictionists. And he’s from Arizona, whose Maricopa County is the front line of illegal immigrants. I’d call that a profile in courage, whatever his other failings.

Until the general election, we won’t hear much from McCain on immigration but, “Let’s secure the borders first.” And can’t we agree on that?

By Angelo Matera AT 03.10.08 08:11PM Not Rated

Angelo Matera

Dear Gypsey Boots—Thanks for your comment. Yes, McCain has been courageous here. I was referring to the reality that the Republican party is probably going to have to reflect a harsh anti-immigration stance this November. On Immigration, Archbishop Chaput has probably done the most to strike a balance on the issue. The Church is not for open borders, however, as with any other issue, the Gospel and the dignity of the human person must be the guiding principle here. I refer you to this statement by Archbishop Gomez of San Antonio.

Dear Eric: Thanks for your comment as well. See above on immigration.

On voting, you’re thinking like a political consumer, and the fact that our political system has reduced voting to consumerism is the problem. But that’s not how democracy is supposed to work, according to Aristotle and St. Thomas, as Alasdair MacIntyre explains in his work. His critique of liberal demoracy is very lofty stuff. To me, one version goes like this:  Real democracy would produce candidates who would bubble up based on genuine citizen deliberation at more primary levels. Instead, we have a top down system that is dependent on money, with one result being that certain positions and approaches never get opn the table. To say that the interests are the people is simplistic. The interests get to be powerful and/or large either through financial power, or through mass appeals that are crass and simplistic. I know, because I am a long-time direct marketing consultant who has worked with the largest mailers in the country. The medium determines the message, and subtle doesn’t work. Subtle works better on a human, local level, and until we find a way to revive and incorporate that approach, we will continue to experience political dissatisfaction. This requires a real revolution in how we live and govern together, and it might seem futile to even think about, but as Christians our minds and hearts are supposed to be informed by the Gospel. Our time frame is eternity.

But back to your question, the purpose of voting is to influence the common good, and if rejection of the false 2-candidates choice in order to call attention to an alternative is the best way to express that, then so be it.

On mortgage deliquencies and credit card debt, he Church has never condoned any and all “financial acts between consenting adults.’ For instance, a wage contract freely entered into is not necessarily just. In both cases, regulation could have protected against deceptive, outrageously usurious rates being imposed on unsuspecting borrowers. In the case of people who knowingly took on too much debt, yes, it is the government’s role, to some extent, to protect people from bad choices, because we are our brothers’ keepers. I, for one, am obligated as a Christian to not let people destroy themselves, and that being the case I’m going to vote for protections that will keep that from happening.

By Joe Schriner AT 03.11.08 01:31AM Not Rated

Joe Schriner

Chassup… I, too, believe it’s the church’s responsibility to take care of the poor.  However, you know as well as I that the church is falling, oh, a little short on that these days.  Today in the world, 24,000 people (UN figure) starved to death.  We live in the inner city of Cleveland (intentionally) and volunteer at a Catholic Worker outreach to the poor when I’m not out running for president.  One of those guys froze to death over the weekend… When the church comes up short, wouldn’t the next best thing in our country be for a majority of benevolent minded people (of all faiths, for instance) to step up and vote for proposals to help the poor, or for social justice leaning politicians, etc.  This is how a democracy works…  And I would differ with you about Catholic Social Teaching always inviting, but never imposing.  When Jesus told the parable of “the rich guy and Lazarus the beggar at the gate (which some Catholic Social Teaching hinges on),” He said that because the rich guy doesn’t help the poor guy, the rich guy goes to Hell.  That would seem, oh, a little directive (read: imposing).  Unless, of course, you want to go to Hell.  It’s all kind of like the parachute instructor who says to the jumpers just before going up:  “When you jump out I would ‘suggest’—you pull the rip cord.”

By panther97 AT 03.11.08 05:23AM Not Rated


Wow. Angelo, reading your article, I feel as though I am not a true Catholic.

I align myself with the Dems on many issues. I am anti-death penalty and for a social safety net provided for the government. I am against vouchers. I am also pro-choice and pro-gay marriage.

I was born and raised a Catholic. Catholic school from K-12. I went to Church and received all of the sacraments. I still attend church and go to confession (although not as frequently as I would like).

It scares me that all that faith is for naught, especially because of my beliefs on abortion, stem cell research and gay marriage.

I always thought of myself as a true Catholic. i even seriously considered becoming a priest. I prayed about it, brought books on the subject and even called the priest at my local parish to speak about the vocation. He never called back and I wound up getting married 4 years later.

Am I a true Catholic?

If anybody can recommend any books, essays, etc on the questions I have, I would truly appreciate it.

I love my faith, its history and the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made to save us. But I am torn.

Thank you, Angelo, for your article even though I do not agree with all of your positions.

By Caffeine Patrol AT 03.11.08 01:11PM Not Rated

Caffeine Patrol

I ask this in all sincerity: what is there about abortion that would allow you to support it with good conscience?
I was praying the Rosary yesterday and meditating on the Joyful Mystery of the Annunciation and the thought came to mind: was Jesus conceived in the womb at the moment that Gabriel told Mary it was happening? I believe He was, and if Jesus’ life began at conception, and He is fully human, then how can Christians not believe that every life begins at conception?
I implore you to pray and study on this matter. In the time that I had strayed from the Church I once loaned a friend the money to secure an abortion. While I have confessed and been absolved of this sin, I will never forget the blood on my hands, especially now that my wife and I have a daughter.

By eric AT 03.11.08 02:25PM Not Rated


Hi Angelo,

I would be interested in your reply to this statement: Christ came calling us to love our neighbor—personally and individually.  He did not come calling governments to set up institutions to love its people.

By chassup AT 03.11.08 03:10PM Not Rated



In response to your statement: “I was referring to the reality that the Republican party is probably going to have to reflect a harsh anti-immigration stance this November.”

Words have meaning, and when ascribing a position to your opponent it is all the more critical to be accurate.  I will assume that you meant to say “illegal immigration,” but if you purposely tried to blur the line shame on you. 

If, as you say, “The Church is not for open borders,” it seems reasonable that criminal behavior resulting from open borders is to be avoided as well.  The Church clearly teaches that nations have a right to protect their borders, while respecting the human dignity of those seeking to crash them.  The question is, of course, what to do with the gate crashers already here?  It is that simple, I get tired of the hyperbole on this issue.

By Angelo Matera AT 03.11.08 03:45PM Not Rated

Angelo Matera

As a gut check for myself, last night I read Pope John Paul II’s
Letter to Families and it confirms what I wrote here. The “civilization of love” that is proposed by the Church calls us to create a society that is much more radically Christian—and more charitable towards the poor and the weak—than our current society. It also affirms that the family, built on the self-giving complementarity of persons that is marriage between a man and woman, is the basic building block of such a society. If you care about social justice, you must care about protecting the natural family. Thsi doesn’t mean we don’t welcome “unconventional” families—stuff happens—it just means we don’t downgrade the ideal, which has an important function.

To Panther97 and Eric: I didn’t accuse anyone of not being Catholic. The extent to which we adhere to the Church’s mission is based on grace, and I judge no one. All is grace. What I’m doing is expressing what my conscience tells me about what the Church teaches about a just social order. Again, reading JPII last night only confirmed this. The Church has said that its social doctrine is an important part of the Good News.

To Chassup: Gven the radical words of the Gospels I would be careful how I would use the word “gatecrasher.” 2,000 years of Church teaching on “the universal destination of goods” is clear. The goods of the earth belong to God, and are meant for all his children, and we only hold property in trust because this serves the common good, human nature being what it is. But if people are starving at our doorstep we are OBLIGATED to share what we have. And in the case of illegal immigrants, who come here to work, there is less reason to refer to them negatively. I refer you to St. Thomas Aquinas, from his Summa about “Whether it is lawful to steal through stress of need?”

“In cases of need all things are common property, so that there would seem to be no sin in taking another’s property, for need has made it common…
...Since, however, there are many who are in need, while it is impossible for all to be succored by means of the same thing, each one is entrusted with the stewardship of his own things, so that out of them he may come to the aid of those who are in need. Nevertheless, if the need be so manifest and urgent, that it is evident that the present need must be remedied by whatever means be at hand (for instance when a person is in some imminent danger, and there is no other possible remedy), then it is lawful for a man to succor his own need by means of another’s property, by taking it either openly or secretly: nor is this properly speaking theft or robbery.

By chassup AT 03.11.08 04:02PM Not Rated


Joe wrote:
“When the church comes up short, wouldn’t the next best thing in our country be for a majority of benevolent minded people (of all faiths, for instance) to step up and vote for proposals to help the poor, or for social justice leaning politicians, etc.  This is how a democracy works…”

Unfortunately, this is how Hegelian progressive liberals have operated for nearly 100 years.  The “war on poverty,” the “war on drugs,” and all the other “wars” to “fix” education, health care, unemployment, crime, violence against women, pedophilia, etc. were “the next best thing” brought to us by “social justice leaning politicians.”  After $trillions were extracted from “benevolent” Americans and re-directed to these “wars,” the problems persist… worse than before I am told—the rich get richer! 

As for Catholic “invitation” vs. “imposing,” I believe you are mistaken.  God’s greatest gift to us is free will, Lazarus was free to love the beggar or not.  Imagine a world where the rich are forced to “love” the beggars at their doors.  That’s not what God wants of us, and systems of government that try to force benevolence always fail, because true charity, the kind that conveys Grace, requires free will.  I know thousands starve while we rich Americans overeat, but our guilt is misplaced if it is for being blessed.  Our guilt is intended to provoke contrition to God and selfless sacrifice for our brothers’ sake.  I can’t save the world, but I might help one man at my door.  And that’s what Jesus was trying to teach with that parable.

By eric AT 03.11.08 04:08PM Not Rated



Your citations of JPII and St. Thomas are in no way in dispute.  Where we disagree is not in the realm of Christian faith or doctrine, but how the ideal Christian society is to be realized in practice. 

At the heart is that you believe the government is the primary vehicle for realization, whereas those of my ilk believe that individuals and private groups (parishes, charities, etc.) are the better primary vehicle, with government playing a lesser role.

We should not believe that our political positions are the only ones allowable by Christian faith.

By Romanowsky AT 03.11.08 04:11PM Not Rated


Isn’t avoiding hyperbole and ambiguity a matter of accurately and adequately describing the reality of a thing? To describe illegal immigrants as “gate crashers” is like describing the starving man who broke into a grocery store to steal food for his family a “window breaker”. Not to justify theft or the breaking of windows. And maybe he could find another way to feed his family. But policies shouldn’t be based on abstract reductionisms. “Window breaker”, “gate crasher”, even “illegal immigrant” just doesn’t adequately describe the human reality of the thing.

There is such a thing as moral and therefore legal culpability. (One man’s first degree murder is another man’s crime of passion.)

As William Cavanaugh wrote: “If you think of globalization in terms of moving plants to Mexico, in that sense it depends upon the border which separates Mexico from the United States such that one mile south of the border you can pay someone fifty cents an hour and one mile north of the border you may have to pay them seven or eight dollars an hour. Globalization therefore really depends upon nation state borders in order for capital to have the ability to seek out the cheapest labor in any part of the globe while labor remains unable to be as mobile.”

Mexico just has the mis/fortune of sharing a border with us in this deliberately crafted globalized economy that is making a lot of people rich. I don’t have any solutions to this huge problem, my point is simply that the satisfying black and white approach of legal reductionisms can be like convicting someone of first degree murder when in truth they’re only guilty of a crime of passion.

By Harold Fickett AT 03.11.08 05:28PM Not Rated

Harold Fickett

Panther, see The Gospel of Life EVANGELIUM VITAE http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25031995_evangelium-vitae_en.html as to why the sanctity of life is inherent to the Gospel and essential to it. 

As Angelo says, no one can judge your relationship to God, but the teachings of the Church, as to faith and morals, are clear—that’s one of the great strengths of Catholicism: “You can look it up.”  The new Catechism is particularly helpful on the broadest range of issues and provides resources, through its citations, for further study.  I’d also recommend David Scott’s THE CATHOLIC PASSION, George Weigel’s LETTERS TO A YOUNG CATHOLIC (which as a middle-aged Catholic I found plenty powerful), and the apologetic works of Scott Hahn, ALan Shreck, and Peter Kreeft.  For starters.

By chassup AT 03.11.08 06:25PM Not Rated



I looked up “hyperbole” in the dictionary, and it said assuming all 12-20 million aliens living in the US illegally came here because they were starving.

You say “[labels] just doesn’t adequately describe the human reality of the thing.”  I agree, we must see each individual as a unique human person deserving of love. Love directs me to be charitable, but it also requires me to defend justice.  To allow law-breaking is to be indifferent to these human persons.  I agree that our current immigration system needs to be revamped, but illegal immigrants, all people, deserve more than the soft bigotry of low expectations.  To hold them accountable shows them that we love them.

I visited the border with Mexico once. Through a fence I saw dry, dirty, hovels and imagined what they thought looking at me in a new car on a modern interstate with bright green median strip in fully irrigated spring bloom. I knew then that I could never work as a border guard, I’d let them all in. I understand the desire to come here, we have the greatest country in the world.  At the same time, I am not convinced at all that what I witnessed reflected the entirety of Latin America.  I believe that most aliens here came for the same reason my ancestors came—liberty, opportunity and security.  Our greatest sin as a nation was to pretend we didn’t notice they were crashing our gate, now crying foul or “send them back” is unjust.

By Angelo Matera AT 03.11.08 06:51PM Not Rated

Angelo Matera

Dear Chassup—
One responsible response to the reality of Lazarus at our border is a guest worker program that regularizes the situation. Having said that, there are people to my left (I hate to use that term, but it will have to do) who believe that such programs lead to systematic exploitation of workers. That would need to be addressed. My point is that recognizing our obligations here does not require “open borders” or a disregard for the law. The law needs to be changed to accommodate the situation.

We can’t accommodate the “reality” of illegal abortions because killing the innocent is always wrong. However, recognizing the reality of illegal immigration is different - it does not require Christians to violate fundamental human rights, but only to balance the rights of the state with a respect for the dignity of every person. There is plenty of room for debate without crossing over into positions that are just not compatible with the Gospel.

By chassup AT 03.11.08 07:42PM Not Rated


ANGELO, We agree on much.  I don’t like “guest worker” plans—they put these people into a class, and that is wrong.  Also, they subject immigrants to a higher potential for exploitation.

I like a simpler “Ellis Island” approach. You want to live here? Great, where you from, any diseases, got a job lined up, who is going to be responsible for you, what do you do, what’s your plan to get by until you get situated, etc.  In other words, welcome, are you here to become an American or a leech? If leechism is your goal, go to Canada or Europe. Do people lie, sure, my ancestors probably did, but they were held accountable and assimilation was their plan.

Just because the Statue of Liberty says “Send us your poor…” that doesn’t mean we want you to stay poor. I want people to come here and prosper. A guest worker program assures we have a poor working class who can be controlled through progressive government programs.  That don’t look like charity to me.

The millions who are already here?  That’s easy, accountability is the key to the whole thing.

By Bill Christensen AT 03.11.08 08:18PM Not Rated

Bill Christensen


You caught my attention with this one: “I would be interested in your reply to this statement: Christ came calling us to love our neighbor—personally and individually.  He did not come calling governments to set up institutions to love its people.”

I may be wrong, but the history of western civilization sure seems to be, among other things, the history and development of the philosophy and practice of governments as informed by the light of the Gospel. This starts with Jesus’ own commission to the Apostles just prior to the ascension when he said” Go ye therefore and teach all nations”. It is certainly evident in the works of St. Augustine, largely considered to be a cornerstone of western development.

John Paul II referred to Christ as the “Redeemer of man and history” How can redemption, intended to restore all things to the original purpose not include governments in conjunction with all other facets of humanity and civilization. The scriptures declare that Christ is “Lord of heaven and earth”. How can this be without including the governments of the earth?

Angelo has by no means indicated that the solution to all ills comes by way of governmental decree. But,at the same time, governments are in fact,  “called to love”. Nothing in the cosmos is outside of the gravitational pull of Christ’s love and redemption.

By eric AT 03.11.08 08:56PM Not Rated


Thanks Bill,

What I am trying to say is that we have a fundamental disagreement on the role of government in a Christian society.  My point is not that government is somehow exempt from the Gospel, but that its specific responsibilities are not dictated by the Gospel. 

Thus, social welfare programs are not necessarily mandated by church teaching.  For example, I believe that the poor are better served by those of us around them who take responsibility for them, rather than by a government program.  Maybe my political opinion is wrong, but it does not mean that I am in opposition to church teaching.  I simply have a different opinion as to how to realize that teaching.

That brings me back to the point above.  We need to be mindful that on most political subjects (life issues being a notable exception), we have wide latitude in political positions.  This is because the concept of prudence enters in.  What may seem prudent to you, given your understanding of socio-political circumstances, may not seem prudent to me, given mine. 

The point is that these are inherently political issues, not dogmatic issues, so we should not be claiming that our political position is the only position that Christianity allows.

By Angelo Matera AT 03.11.08 09:49PM Not Rated

Angelo Matera

Dear Eric—

Yes, you’re right that the application of church teachings can vary depending on how we each understand particular circumstances. Two points:

(1) You say “I believe that the poor are better served by those of us around them who take responsibility for them, rather than by a government program.” That’s fine. But that has to be a conclusion that you arrive at after applying the Church’s objective principle that all people have a right to what they need to live. If you believe that cutting government programs will not lead to greater suffering, then fine. But your preference can’t be based on other criteria that have nothing to do with the Gospel. An example here is that some conservative Christians rely on the spur of poverty to whip people into moral shape. That’s not Christian. A similar mentality led England not to intervene during the Irish potatoe famine, letting hundreds of thousands starve. They were also influenced by the social darwinism of the time.

Also, when you advocate applying your prudential judgement, realize that the Church allows the same sort of freedom when it comes to voting for a pro-choice candidate. You can’t vote for someone because they are pro-choice, but you can vote for them despite their pro-choice position, for proportionate reasons. You must inform your conscience, but then you are free to make that decision. There are conservatives who want the freedom to go their own way on, say, less gov’t, but who get upset at the idea that some liberals believe the number of abortions will come down if liberal social policies are enacted. So while you’re right, remember that liberal Christians (I’m not on that side either, having chosen to oppose both candidates) can use the same principle in making their choice.

By Joe Schriner AT 03.12.08 12:14AM Not Rated

Joe Schriner

Chassup wrote:  “God’s greatest gift is free will.  [The rich guy] was free to love [Lazarrus] the beggar, or not.”

Of course he was.  I never said he wasn’t.

However, Jesus tells us the consequence He will ‘impose’ for us not loving the beggar on this one is: Hell.

Again, you have the sky diving instructor who says to the new jumpers:  “Once you jump out of the plane, I’d ‘invite’ you to—pull the rip cord.”

Each jumper still has free will, but…

Also, I’d be interested to hear:  Of the presidential candidates who are out there, which one is more in line with Catholic Social teaching than myself (http://www.voteforjoe.com)?  I’d like to hear from you too on that one Angelo.

Now, I could go on arguing with you ad infinitum on this thread Chassup, or I could go out and actually help the poor more.

And, well… I think I’ll pull the rip cord. 

God bless you.

By panther97 AT 03.12.08 12:49AM Not Rated



Thanks…I will definitely check it out.
One more questions: Do you recommend any websites I should take a look at? Maybe an online community?

By Harold Fickett AT 03.12.08 03:14PM Not Rated

Harold Fickett


Try these http://www.salvationhistory.com/welcome.cfm






Also, the best spiritual bookstore in America


And my favorite monastery


I’m hardly the fount of all wisdom, but if you’d like to converse via email you can reach me through the GodSpy site.  Just go to Control Panel (top left on the home page), then Member List, find my name and click on the email button. 

Also, GodSpy is hoping to have bulletin boards of its own, where members can discuss topics.  So stay tuned.  Finally, I’m extremely impressed by the members we have attracted to date.  There are a lot of smart, committed Catholics who are already members.  You can email people whose comments you find intriguing through the Member List.  We want GodSpy not only to be an online magazine but a virtual community as well, and the software is set up to enable this. 

In Christ’s charity,

By stainless_steel AT 03.17.08 02:43AM Not Rated


Angelo, I think your article here is AWESOME. I’m no political genius, but I refuse to put my support towards any candidate that supports one of the many violations of human rights. And since both the Republican and Democrat platforms clearly do this, voting for members of the two parties isn’t much of an option for me. I feel that voting is sort of like signing my name to an individual’s platform, and a “less bad” platform isn’t something I want to sign on to.
That being said, I can’t really say that I advocate not voting. I’m not fond of the party system, and I definitely feel that putting forth a write-in vote is the only option that has the chance of getting the government’s attention and informing the people that the two party system is no longer acceptable. It could be a write-in for Mickey Mouse—the name doesn’t matter; it’s the “withheld vote” that matters. Not going to the polling place isn’t going to get anyone’s attention. Otherwise you’d think they’d have gotten the hint when only half of the US population actually votes!
Here’s one of my thoughts on the issue of party politics: Since the beginning of the 20th century, American lives have changed quite significantly. In the first half of the century, people all, for example, listened to the same music—the popular stuff. Today, you and I are likely to buy music that 90% of other people haven’t even heard of. Our choices in music are nearly infinite, but we can’t have it all, so we look at an area of music that we like and narrow it down. Why can’t the voting system be the same way without the party system?
I’ve heard criticisms of my arguments such as, “that can’t work because we need a majority vote.” Sure, but we already hold primaries to narrow things down anyway; do the same without party nominations. Also, “a larger pool of candidates would be great, but the system has to be efficient or it will never work.” I gotta say, these criticisms just aren’t satisfying to me. Why can’t the American people have real choice at the polls? Why must we subject to a system that promotes “us vs. them” conflict instead of positive conflict among individual officials that can result in much more creative and positive solutions to problems?
...Probably because we’ll never get the party system to destroy itself.
So, that being said, even my choice of write-in candidates is greater than my choice of party candidates: Alasdair MacIntyre, Joe Schriner, or Angelo Matera.
Thanks again, Angelo, for writing such a thought-provoking (and conversation-provoking) piece.

By liberty_student37 AT 03.17.08 04:33AM Not Rated


“The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.”

-G. K. Chesterton

By GTN AT 05.21.08 11:38PM Not Rated


Allow me to make one comment. All people are fallen, and you’ve got to be a bit crazy to run for president. There will never be a perfect president, nor has there ever been. Why can’t we just choose the lesser of two evils? I care a bit too much just to throw America to the dogs, which is what will happen when good Christians stop voting.

By chassup AT 05.22.08 02:40PM Not Rated


This election is modern American culture in full regalia—from 350 million citizens, we’ve narrowed our choice of leader to the three “best”... Larry, Moe and Curly.  God save us!

By GTN AT 05.24.08 12:28AM Not Rated


Well, Larry’s too liberal for me, I wouldn’t want to see Moe’s first Laddie, so I’m settling for Curly. smile


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