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Questioning assumptions about Catholics

Letter to the Editor | Thursday, October 30, 2003

In his Oct. 28 column, Peter Quaranto argues that the “approaches of many Catholics … to the political arena are misguided and immoral.” This may or may not be true, but unfortunately Quaranto shows in his article that his understanding of politics is beyond misguided or misinformed; it is nonexistent.I agree with the Catholic bishops’ missive, which Quaranto claims to support, that Catholics have a moral obligation to be politically involved. His proposed answers, though, would do the opposite. First, he suggests that Catholics without a “solid grasp on the issues” should not vote. Such a measure would work very well, I am sure, because the two major parties pay such close attention to the interests of people who don’t vote. Oh wait, no. The parties, being intelligent political organisms that want to win, do not waste their time with to these people. If we followed Quaranto’s suggestion, Catholics would, in terms of their political power, commit mass suicide.Following this, Quaranto suggests that we should present a uniquely Catholic candidate that follows Church teaching and doctrine. There are a couple of problems here. The Church does not have an authoritative teaching or doctorine on many political issues other than abortion. We are a very large body that encompasses numerous religious traditions and a wide range of political thought. For Quaranto, though, this may not matter, as the phrase, “Church teaching and doctrine,” may mean nothing more than a particular strand of doctrine with which Quaranto agrees.Beyond this ideological problem, his idea of a Catholic candidate is as politically wrongheaded as his blank ballot scheme. Catholics are (and always have been) a minority in this country. If we present a presidential candidate whose only appeal is his or her Catholicism, we are destined to lose every time. Rather than convincing the two major parties to take us seriously, such a move would alienate us. People in the past feared that Catholics would try to destroy the boundaries between church and state. Quaranto would play into their hands.Quaranto fails to acknowledge the reality that other groups exist in society besides Catholics. In politics, it is necessary to build coalitions between these diverse groups and to compromise. Thus, Catholics are destined to disagree with some element or another of a candidate’s platform. In a society of hundreds of millions of people, no candidate will be perfectly acceptable to each person. Our group is no different.Quaranto mistakes this necessary compromise for utilitarianism. But when we do not completely agree with either party, don’t we have to assess the relative benefits and drawbacks of each candidate? Using language associated with concerns of “utility” does not automatically make us utilitarians. Quaranto confuses a type of political philosophy with a natural cost-benefit analysis that is necessary to almost every choice we make.I do not even know how to respond to Quaranto’s claim that “Republicans remain committed generally to an anti-life agenda on other issues.” This seems completely devoid of any attempt to even understand why Republicans hold the positions that they do, let alone any reasoned analysis of political issues. I doubt Republicans would call themselves anti-life. Probably most Democrats wouldn’t use that label either. It seems perfectly appropriate, though, for a far-left Catholic demagogue to say something like this.Finally, for all his talk of faithfulness to Catholicism, Quaranto manages to betray his faith by arrogating for himself the power of God. And though my mind is incapable of fathoming the Lord’s divine wisdom, I surely hope that He will not condemn us for one day at the polls. “Judge not, lest you be judged,” seems a lesson that was lost on Quaranto.I suggest that before Quaranto write another of his columns condemning the rest of campus for not joining campus activities like Peace Calition, Pax Christi or the Progressive Social Alliance, he spend some time trying to dislodge the wooden beam from his eye.

Michael RomanoseniorDillon HallOct. 28