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Professors discuss politics

Abi Hoverman | Friday, April 13, 2012

Editor’s Note: Sebastian Rosato’s position on abortion, the Catholic Church’s teachings and the Democratic Party was inaccurately represented in the print version of this story, which was edited April 13 to correct that error.

Three professors discussed the values of presidential candidates in the fast-approaching fall elections during the “Holy Votes Debate” Thursday night in Washington Hall.

Moderator Michael Desch, head of the Department of Political Science, said it is important for students to consider how various political parties embody the views of the Church in different ways.

“We hope this interchange will create some soul searching … about the platforms of the parties,” Desch said.

Sebastian Rosato, director of the Notre Dame International Security Program, was asked by event organizers to represent the Democratic Party, while associate professor of economics Eric Sims was tabbed to speak on behalf of Republicans. Vincent Muñoz, Tocqueville Associate Professor of Religion and Public Life, was asked to present Libertarian views.

The views expressed by each respective professor are not necessarily their views, but rather those of the party they were asked to represent by event organizers.

The three professors debated issues ranging from abortion to healthcare.

Rosato presented the liberal position in the abortion debate. He said the Democratic Party’s approach to abortion is “just as or more compatible with a culture of life than the Republican position,” and Catholic voters should consider a party’s positions on all issues before voting for a given candidate, rather than focusing on its perspectives on abortion alone. 

“A Catholic would only be participating in evil by voting for a pro-choice candidate if you voted for him purely for being pro-choice,” Rosato said. “You should not be a one issue voter.”

Rosato said liberal methods of lowering the number of abortions through socioeconomic support prove more effective than conservative methods. He said abortions declined by 12.6 percent each year [former President Bill] Clinton was in office, in comparison to the 7 percent drop during [former President George W.] Bush’s administration.

As the chosen representative to advocate for the Democratic Party, Rosato said Catholic voters must consider a careful balance of the effects of each issue.

“The church recognizes that no party is perfect, [and] all they should do is vote for the party that promotes the common good,” he said.

Sims said from the Republican viewpoint, the abortion issue is the key reason Catholics should support conservative candidates. The Church aims to protect human dignity above all else, he said.

“In the U.S., there have been about 50 instances of capital punishment each year … but in the U.S. there are over 3,000 abortions a day,” Sims said. “Plainly put … we must as Catholics continue to speak out against it even if the odds are against us.”

Muñoz presented reasons for Catholics to align with the Libertarian Party, whose small government platform allows the Church to promote their views in all aspects of life. He said when government is only responsible for protecting individuals from one another, churches, families and private institutions shape moral development instead of law.

“Taxing is the taking of others’ labor,” he said. “Modern liberals and conservatives are committed to taking money and giving it to their friends to use it in pursuit of their version of the good life.”

He said modern politics exist in a post-Christian age, where Christianity is a minority view. As democracies reflect majority preferences, government then fails to be Christian.

“To preserve space for Christianity, we need to reduce the role of government,” Muñoz said.

Sims said while each party has its weaknesses and strengths, what is most important is participation in the political process.

“Make your voices heard, stand up for your beliefs, and don’t be ashamed of them,” he said.