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Catholics still get a choice

Observer Viewpoint | Sunday, October 31, 2004

I am writing to respond to the column written by Professor Charles Rice on Nov. 28 about voting and faith. This column was a glaring example of the hypocrisy with which many Catholics conduct themselves, particularly where politics is concerned. For example, the author stated that abortion and euthanasia are inherently evil and therefore any practicing Catholic must vote against anyone who condones these practices. However, according to this author, there is a little more wiggle-room when it comes to the death penalty and the war in Iraq.

In this column, the pope was referenced several times. If you want to quote the pope, do so by all means. But do so accurately. The Vatican opposes both the war in Iraq and the death penalty. The Vatican also said very recently that people should not use a presidential candidates’ stance on the abortion issue as an acid test when voting. The Vatican really cannot get much closer to saying “Vote Kerry” without naming names.

There appears to exist a division between the religious right in this country and the actual religion they profess to represent. Why else would people who use the Bible and Vatican to substantiate every point they make, then conveniently forget that the Vatican whole heartedly condemns the war in Iraq and the death penalty? Why would such people encourage us to vote for Bush when he is currently the record holder for most executions as governor of Texas? Maybe the whole “Thou shalt not kill” thing is more of a guideline where groups that are predominantly black, such as death row, are concerned.

Where it not so important, I would almost find it humorous that such people, church leaders included, seem to understand the pope when he is criticizing the classically Democratic-supported issues, such as pro-choice and stem cell research, but apparently have bouts of tinnitus when more Republican-supported topics are being reviled.

But it is important. We now live in a world where we are under the constant threat of terrorism from fundamentalists. A situation that in the last four years has only been exacerbated by having our own set of zealots imposing their ideological agendas while representing this country. With our very well-being at stake, I am nothing short of baffled when it becomes clear that people seem to focus only on abortion when deciding whom to vote for. God gave us brains capable of multi-tasking, let’s use them. There is more that one issue at hand, and abortion, while important, is not paramount.

Aside from impeding our ability to choose someone who best represents American interests, focusing on one issue en masse has another detrimental consequence. It sets up a political atmosphere in which those who profess to be “Pro-Life” are given a free pass to do whatever they want without ever being fact-checked, questioned or where necessary, punished. Pro-life politicians automatically have an inbuilt base of supporters who feel they are “trustworthy” or “a man’s man.” Ask such people what they think of Bill Clinton or John Edwards and without being able to put their finger on it, they will invariably tell you that they just can’t trust them.

Therefore it seems that as well as the ability to multi-task, we are also squandering the gift of common sense. Courtesy of one-issue fanatics, we now have in office someone who led America to war on faulty premises, alienating the allies earned after 9/11, someone who endangered the lives of others while drink driving – and married someone who ended the life of a poor unfortunate while driving – someone who offered no-bid contracts to his right hand man’s company and then ignored the theft of money for those contracts and who, at the end of the day, has not even appeased his one-issue fanatics by reversing Roe v. Wade. Lucky for him, words speak louder than actions to these people. Merely saying you are anti-abortion will earn you their categorical support. Besides, if abortion were successfully outlawed, what issue would be our litmus test for the presidential elections?

Elizabeth Halpin

graduate student

Oct. 28