According to the political pundits, the results of the U.S. presidential election on November 2nd. reflected less the supposedly hot issues of terrorism and the war in Iraq, the economy, heath-care costs and the future of social security, than it did the more troubling issue of "moral values".
But the question remains -- which moral values? If we take the phrase to mean the long-running fight over abortion and it latest implications affecting stem-cell research, or the issue of "gay marriage", then it is obvious that outcome of this election was largely determined by the combined voting power of evangelical Christians and conservative Catholics. In these matters, the simple moralism of the former hell-raising but now "born-again" rich boy from Texas trumps the rather complicated Catholicism of the twice-married career politician from Massachusetts.
Yet all this has happened despite the litany of other moral issues conveniently forgotten by the now reelected president -- among them being the matters of espousing a doctrine of "preemptive war" resulting in tens of thousands of deaths, clandestinely condoning torture and internment contrary to international law, the dismantling of treaties painfully built up over decades to try to insure peace, the refusal to work with other nations to control environmental degradation or more effectively address the issues of economic disparity, with its concomitant problems of hunger, homelessness, and lack of health care, both abroad and even here at home. In these latter matters, all we have seen, for the most part, has been a few vague promises covering up a steady increase in the problems. Yet all these are also clearly moral issues.
If this is not clear by now, I think we have mostly the U.S. Catholic Church to blame, or more specifically its bishops. While these issues barely touch the narrowly individualistic piety of American evangelicalism, they are all part of the Catholic Church's social ethics and teachings -- some of quite recent (like its environmental awareness) and some of it (like the required conditions for a "just war") going back many centuries, and still others (like the obligations to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless) going back to the Gospels. Why then this sudden concentration on just one or two facets of Catholic teaching by the U.S. Bishops?
One can only conclude, that despite their efforts avoid naming names (lest they loose their tax-exempt non-political organizational status) some of the U.S. Bishops may have let their own political bias interfere with their full presentation of Catholic moral values. That, and the fact that way too many of their episcopal colleagues were too willing to avoid speaking out clearly and loudly on the full range of issues. On the other hand, perhaps the good news is that this should give the bishops new moral leverage with the White House since they, whether the President is willing to admit it or not, played a major role in getting him reelected.
R W Kropf 11/3/04 Values.doc 04-11-03.html