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HolyVotes explores politics and Catholicism

Aubrey Butts | Monday, April 2, 2012

Four political science professors will share the Washington Hall stage April 12 to exchange and debate their opinions about the intersection of Catholicism and politics.

HolyVotes, an event seeking to open a pathway for political discussion on campus, will replace the God Debate, held in past years.

Senior Malcolm Phelan described HolyVotes as a “lighthearted and rational political debate” that needs to take place at Notre Dame in order to counter the political dialogue currently dominating the media.

“Most news outlets and political commentators seem to be acting out some form of grotesque tragedy about the death of reason and discourse,” Phelan said. “That’s exactly why we are hosting HolyVotes. We want to lay out our civic beliefs as Catholics, and then discuss which form of government best helps us to achieve those goals.”

HolyVotes will feature professors Sebastian Rosato, Eric Sims, Vincent Munoz and Michael Desch.

Junior Arnav Dutt, a coordinator for the event, said he was grateful for the faculty members’ willingness to voice their opinions outside of the classroom.

“In a way, these professors chose themselves,” Dutt said. “All three were brave enough to tackle the issue in a public forum.”

Rosato, a professor of political science specializing in international relations, said he will represent the Democratic position, which is often considered more controversial because of the Catholic tendency to vote Republican.

“It’s a very complex issue, one that many people view as black and white,” Rosato said. “The assumption is if you vote Republican, you are going straight to the pro-life argument, and if you’re Democrat, you are going to run straight to the social justice issues.

“I think there is a lot of overlap, and I think that the parties are internally divided, and that therefore, this is a debate that really needs to occur on campus.”

Rosato said defending the Democratic stances on abortion and gay marriage represents the most difficult task, but he believes his arguments can counter the opposition if received with an open mind.

“In these types of debates, people typically tend to give the party line or the Catholic stance, and there is no one on the other end,” Rosato said. “I think the other professors involved in this debate are well-intentioned, and I believe most people in the room will be able to treat it as a debate, but I fear it may devolve into name calling.”

Despite advice not to participate in HolyVotes, Rosato said he believes it is his duty to ask the charged questions and contribute to overturning the paradigm of asserting truths rather than debating issues.

“I believe I was put on this earth to make arguments and to make them regardless of what people thought,” Rosato said. “As a privileged professor at Notre Dame, I’m meant to inform and contribute to raising the level of discourse. My job is to think, and that’s why I said yes.”

Dutt said the event is meant to encourage contemplation and dialogue.

“Students should expect an intellectually stimulating debate conducted at a high volume,” he said.

Phelan agreed HolyVotes should make attendees think.

“My hope is that we all stumble out of Washington Hall, slightly dazed at the brilliance of Rosato, Munoz, Sims and Desch while considering what duties we owe our country and our fellow citizens.”