Hillary no. But Donald? The difficult choice of American Catholics

By Leone Grotti

Originally published October 21, 2016 on Tempi.it (Italian website)

Google Translation from Italian to English:

To whom will the vote be directed? In favor of the unpresentable who argues with everyone or for the woman supported by the largest abortion colossus of America? Weigel, Nash-Marshall and Novak try to answer


Article taken from the number of Times on newsstands (go to the subscriptions page ) - Never in the history of the United States have Catholics been so distressed before a presidential election. Taking for granted that very few will vote for the libertarian Gary Johnson, better known as "mister What Is Aleppo?" (The clamorous gaffe can be seen on Youtube), or the green Jill Stein, who to choose between the two main candidates? Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton? The Republican or the Democratic? The unpresentable man who quarrels with everyone, even with Pope Francis, or the presentable woman but little loved by the Americans? The billionaire who gives women what they want, even "to take them for the f ...", and that does not spare sexual appreciation on the daughter, or the former first lady supported by Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion colossus of America? The bully who feels admiration for the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and who does not disdain the construction of walls or the whole bridge diplomacy that is funding the election campaign from Saudi Arabia, the largest exporter of Islamic terrorism in the world? The isolationist accused of having evaded taxes, even if legally, or the interventionist obamiana who reduced Libya to a jihadist powder magazine from a secretary of state, did not prevent the assassination of the American ambassador in Benghazi in 2012 and violated law secretly canceling about 33 thousand emails, while escaping the jail? Finally, the man accused of being sexist and racist, but who smoothes the hair of the Christians or the woman who is a champion of rainbow rights and proud adversary of the Church and of religious freedom? Faced with such unattractive alternatives, it is not surprising that even an important Catholic archbishop like Charles Chaput, a Philadelphia primate, has come to admit that it will be hard for the faithful: "I think both candidates are bad news for the our country, although in different ways. Donald Trump, according to many, is a belligerent demagogue with problems of self-control. Hillary Clinton, always in the opinion of many, is a criminal lying, whose only wealth are stale ideas and wrong priorities ». To those who will then orientate the Catholic vote, which could decide the fate of an election that is more poised than the polls let believe?

First of all, we need to clear the field of a misunderstanding and refine the question because "there is really no such thing as the" Catholic vote ", points out George Weigel , one of the leading Catholic conservative theologians in the United States. "Here there are people who consider themselves Catholic, who regularly attend Mass and who tend to vote for the Republicans. Then there are people who consider themselves Catholic, who rarely enter a church and tend to vote for the Democrats. If the trend of the latter will be confirmed also in this election, I have some doubts about the first ones ". It is difficult to underline "this distinction without looking a bit snobby", admits to Tempi Siobhan Nash-Marshall, Catholic, professor of philosophy at Manhattanville College and specialized in metaphysics. "But it's too important to do it. Many Catholics in America do not believe that following the magisterium and social doctrines is necessary. For these people there is no problem or dilemma: they will vote happily for Hillary Clinton, despite her vice-presidential candidate, the Catholic Tim Kaine, she said clearly a few days ago on television that she will not defend the rights of the unborn. " Those who in Italy are defined as "adult Catholics", according to the definition of their memory, she calls them "cafeteria catholics". But the meaning is the same. The real question then is another: "What will Catholics who seek to follow in their lives the magisterium in its entirety, that is, the so-called conservatives?".

The few certainties left

Among so many doubts, it is better to start from certainties: the goddaughter of Barack Obama appears "impossible to vote". "Hillary is a bad candidate and fails the test of the four fundamental principles of the Church's social doctrine," says Weigel, author of a monumental biography of John Paul II. "You do not believe in the dignity of the human person in all its stages and regardless of the conditions of life. His position on the principle of the common good and that of subsidiarity is very uncertain, given his enthusiastic adherence to policies on identity (gender, race, etc.) and the principle of a progressive Big Government, which leaves little room for private individuals. It has no concept of solidarity and always stigmatizes those who do not think like you with derogatory terms as "intolerable" or "incorrigible" ». Not only, adds Siobhan, "the problem is larger than a single example, how can the support given to abortion be, and it concerns the vision of internal power within the democratic party. Clinton is a person who considers himself above the Constitution and the law. This is really dangerous ». The episode of the deleted emails, which as a secretary of state was to make public according to the Freedom of Information Act (Foia), speaks for itself and "a conservative Catholic looks with horror at this situation. If you have this attitude towards a law like Foia on emails, let's imagine what will happen in the future ". The problem is even broader, because Hillary Clinton is not only a candidate with an indigestible program, she is also the perfect representative of a party that has transfigured over the years, turning its back on issues such as family, work and neighborhood, to become a champion of the new cultural and moral elites.

The rift that has divided the country between graduates and non-graduates, progressive and retrograde, anti-liberal and liberal, good and bad, in a nutshell, is profound and it is fundamental to understand why Donald Trump won with a wide margin the primaries to ' internal of the Republican party. Michael Novak, a Catholic philosopher, is well aware of this. He is the author of the famous Spirit of democratic capitalism , a thinker of reference for American conservatives, who has studied the problem thoroughly. "The main issue in these elections is the division between those who were educated in college and those who did not attend," he says in Tempi . "The former have the country in their hands: they control television, newspapers, radio, universities, all the great culture. Some argue that they formed a new social class, hegemonized and controlled by the democratic party. They drink from a secular magisterium that draws its contents from the editorials of the New York Times and is also followed by many Catholics ». It is no coincidence that a joke is very popular among Americans: "In schools there are now three bathrooms: one for males, one for females and one for democrats," laughs Novak. The joke captures the scope of this social upheaval: "Today the graduates have a different morality, are more secularized, atheists, they approve of homosexuality and abortion, they see the Catholic Church as smoke in the eye and consider it an obsolete enemy". Catholics "are regarded with suspicion in the universities, because the new politically correct class looks down on all those who do not think like her, accusing them of sexism and racism. If ordinary people are still realistic and live with their feet planted on the ground, the elites well represented by the democrats are out of the world: they have abandoned common sense, modified the definition of man and woman, support gender, they think that people should have few children. Instead, ordinary Americans still like having so many children. In short, they have the control of all the culture, but not the neighborhoods, not the street ". This is also why Hillary is defined as invincible by the main Catholic thinkers. "She is a woman who has lied, violated national laws and anyone else for these things would have gone to jail," continues Novak. "As far as I am concerned, I can not vote for a candidate so favorable to abortion, to the secularist agenda in the moral field and so fiercely opposed to religious freedom".

The restorative letter

The choice would not be so difficult, if only on the other side there was not "The Donald". Together with over 30 Catholic professors and thinkers, Weigel signed an appeal against Trump in March. In the text it was recalled that "the Republican party has been in the last decades the vehicle to promote the social causes that are most dear to American Catholics", such as the defense of the unborn, religious freedom, marriage between men and women. But this possibility is now in jeopardy because "Donald Trump is manifestly inadequate to become president of the United States" because of his electoral campaign full of "vulgarity", not to mention "appeals to ethnic and racial fears and prejudices that impact every genuine Catholic sensibility ". While recognizing that Trump's campaign pleases many Catholics because "it speaks of legitimate and genuine concerns", it is recalled that there is nothing "in his past" and in his present that demonstrates sensitivity to the themes dear to the Church. That's why, explains Weigel in Tempi , the Republican candidate "is bad. He is an immoral man both in his public life and in his private life. And then it is not credible in the management of power. As I can not vote for Clinton, so I will never vote for him. " Perhaps sensing the lack of appeal enjoyed by the faithful, on 5 October Trump tried to recover by signing a letter to Catholic leaders, promising to fight against abortion and defend religious freedom. But the teacher Nash-Marshall is skeptical: "His problem is that he gives us no reason to trust him. He declares that he wants to support Catholics, and we are happy with this, but he never says what his conservative nature would consist of. " The Republican candidate, in fact, had two important points: "The next president of the United States will also appoint the Supreme Court judge who will replace the deceased conservator Scalia". This is a not indifferent point, given that the nine judges decided to decide some of the most significant social upheavals of the last 40 years, approving abortion, for example, and imposing gay marriage to all the United States. The appointment of a conservative or a progressive could change the future of the country and "Trump said he will choose a conservative like Scalia . This announcement was as unexpected as it was fundamental to us. Secondly, he chose as vice presidential candidate Mike Pence, who is highly esteemed by the Church. But I do not know if this will be enough to win the crucial Catholic-Gospel vote ".

A president, not a saint

There are also those who, like Novak, believe that the problem exists but is not so drastic: It is clear that Trump is not exactly the candidate from which a Catholic would like to be represented. But in politics a president is elected, not a saint, nor a bishop, nor the Pope ". By the way, the Republican managed to fight even with Francis on the wall to be erected on the Mexican border. "This is a problem that interests you Italians," the philosopher cuts short. "Nobody pays any attention to us here, and that of illegal immigrants is a real problem, deeply felt by the Americans, who want to enforce the law. You Europeans do not understand these elections: the truth is that if Clinton wins we risk losing our freedom, because the democrats are increasingly illiberal with those who do not think like them ». All newspapers, American and European, present Trump as a monster and his voters as immoral people.

But the truth is that the United States has not suddenly lost its mind and if an unpresentable millionaire, who says in a coarse way all that can not be said, is likely to become president of the United States there is a reason. "Trump is very good at talking about the country and always repeats the same concept to the Americans: they betrayed you, it's time to change," says the philosopher. "But if it is successful, it is because it simply says a great truth. All Americans know very well that they have been betrayed. But this betrayal did not happen in a day, it started 60 years ago ». Slowly, "we began to divide values and life, values and law, through many small compromises. And Catholics have a great responsibility in this. Education has failed, because the universities have all passed into the hands of the left and we have raised up a whole generation, the so-called millennials, in a void of values and meaning. When I think this should be the main theme in these elections and nobody talks about it, I get shivery. "

The prophecy of Francis George

For Nash-Marshall the emptiness of meaning which nourishes the affirmation of individualistic and progressive dogma "should be the most debated theme. If I found a candidate who said: we were wrong, we all drank a hallucinogenic tea, now let's go back to the concrete reality. Here, I would vote for it right away. But the drama is that there is not. And it's not because we have not taught politicians to think, but only to repeat sentences. The fault is ours and our fathers ". Once again, there is only one reason why Trump's candidacy is important: "He is the expression of America's belly that, in a confused way, cries: stop it, let's go back. We only hope that the people will not be betrayed again ».

Who will Catholics then vote for? Weigel assures that "I will not assign my vote to either Clinton or Trump but only to a person worthy of the presidency". We do not know who he is, but he adds: "In any case it is fundamental to choose the Republican party in Congress". Siobhan is convinced that "in the end Catholics will vote for Trump. Not because of him, though, but thanks to Pence, a man who has the moral fiber to put money instead of his mouth. That is to do what he says ". For Novak, however, "the conflict that dwells in the conscience of every Catholic will be resolved only at the last moment. This is another reason why we must not trust the published surveys ".

The doubts remain, even if there is a certainty: "If Hillary Clinton wins", concludes the conservative intellectual, "the prophecy made by the Archbishop of Chicago, Francis George, could be realized before leaving:" I expect to die. in my bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the square "». But there is also a final part of George's reasoning that is often not mentioned: "But his successor will collect the debris of a ruined society and slowly help to rebuild civilization, as the Church has so often done throughout its history.