In the primary season passions can flare, and otherwise likeminded people can, and often do, disagree on which candidate to support. This leads to collective ill will and the need for the winners and losers alike to make reconciliatory measures to bring about party unity. Each person’s vote in their own, and if someone elects to sit out the election rather than vote for the party nominee that is their right.
However, choosing to exercise that right, especially in the current crossroads we are facing as a nation, is ill advised for the next President will shape the judiciary for years to come. It’s not hyperbole to suggest that we could see the Supreme Court return to a Warren Court mindset if Clinton wins the election. To that end, everyone must decide is sitting out worth the risk, and for a Cruz, Rubio, or Kasich supporter ask how can I hold my nose and vote for Trump in the absence of any reconciliatory actions?
It’s no secret that I supported Trump in the primary. One question asked, or piece of “advice” given, was how can you, as a Christian, support Trump when other candidates more closely align with your religious beliefs? That question was difficult to answer in the primary. It’s a much easier question to answer now since the contrast between the two candidates is clear, and Trump has given indications he will appoint conservative SCOTUS Justices and protect religious liberty.
To begin with, viewed through the prism of faith both candidates are flawed. Not only that, they are both flawed in a similar manner. They both express a sincere desire to act in a manner that is aligned with some Catholic positions of social issues. They also both vehemently oppose some of the positions. The areas of agreement and disagreement are diametrically opposed – what Trump supports Clinton opposes and visa versa.
With this clear set of opposing views the analysis is simple, though by no means an easy task. Just look at the areas of difference and see where they align in the Hierarchy of Truths. Since this post presupposes everyone is familiar with the Hierarchy, and some may not be, an explanation can be found in the link above. To sum it up,
“When comparing doctrines with one another,  [theologians] should remember that in Catholic doctrine there exists a ‘hierarchy’ of truths, since they vary in their relation to the fundamental Christian faith” (Unitatis Redintegratio, no. 11)… [t]his hierarchy does not mean that some truths pertain to faith itself less than others, but rather that some truths are based on others as of a higher priority, and are illumined by them.”
In essence the Hierarchy means while all teachings are important some hold a position of greater importance. Whichever candidate’s positions support the higher position in the Hierarchy is the candidate whose beliefs more closely align with the Church’s teachings and is the one to vote for.
In terms of relevant core beliefs the candidates hold diametrically opposed views in three areas: abortion, religious liberty, and immigration. Trump has indicated he had a conversion and no longer supports abortions. Clinton supports abortions. Trump has indicated he will protect religious liberties. Clinton favors policies that directly attack religious liberties. Trump has indicated he will expel all illegal immigrants and build a wall on the southern border as well as banning Muslims from entering the country. Clinton has indicated she will follow President Obama’s footsteps on immigration. So how do these differences align with Church teachings? The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has set forth Seven Themes of Catholic Social Teaching that can be used as guidance to answer the question.
Abortion is the easiest of the three to categorize and answer. It’s well known that the Church opposes abortion and this can be found in both the “Life and Dignity of the Human Person” and in the “Rights and Responsibilities” teaching. This is a basic teaching, “human life is sacred and  the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. This belief is the foundation of all the principles of our social teaching.” A teaching that is the “foundation of all the principles of our social teaching” appears to take the top position on the Hierarchy. On this issue, Trump clearly follows Church teaching more closely than Clinton does.
Protecting religious liberty isn’t as clean of an assessment. Religious liberty isn’t directly assessed in the list of social teachings. On a basic level it seems self evident that attacking the Church through an attack on religious liberty is an action against the Church, and indeed it is. However, the mechanics of the attacks is how the differences between the candidates becomes clear. Clinton wants to force individuals and organizations with sincerely held religious beliefs to act in a manner contrary to the beliefs. Not only that, but the method of enticing action isn’t through enticement, but rather it comes in the form of monetary and legal liability. In the Hobby Lobby case, as well as the group of plaintiffs in the Little Sisters case significant penalties were going to be applied. They are designed to be painful enough that the organizations cannot afford the penalty and will be forced out of business. Similarly, the baking a homosexual wedding cake issue subjects a business owner to choose between holding true to their religious liberty to being subject to suit and monetary award which will end up making ongoing business operations impossible.
This bears on the “Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers” teaching. For those who are able, work is an obligation. As such, “[t]he obligation to earn one’s bread by the sweat of one’s brow also presumes the right to do so. A society in which this right is systematically denied, in which economic policies do not allow workers to reach satisfactory levels of employment, cannot be justified from an ethical point of view.”
This situation is one where the difference isn’t one that directly contradicts the Church’s teachings. It does, however, lead in an inescapable course of action where the teaching is violated. Trump will protect the exercise of religious freedom. Clinton’s policies will prevent the worker with deeply held religious beliefs from being able to maintain employment while holding to those beliefs. The area of difference isn’t directly contradictory to a teaching, but it manifests in a way that prevents compliance with a teaching. Since compliance is impossible the teaching is violated. Although the analysis is more complex, the answer is the same as with abortion. Trump more closely follows the Church’s teachings than Clinton does.
The last area is immigration. Here the two candidate’s beliefs relative to Church teaching appear to be reversed with Clinton more closely following Church teaching. In the “Solidiarity” teaching the Church proclaims, “[w]e are one human family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. We are our brothers and sisters keepers, wherever they may be. Loving our neighbor has global dimensions in a shrinking world.” Taking a closer look at the specifics of the teaching shows, “[t]hrough the eyes of faith, the starving child, the believer in jail, and the woman without clean water or health care are not issues, but Jesus in disguise. The human and moral costs of the arms trade, international debt, environmental neglect, and ethnic violence are not abstractions, but tests of our faith. Violence in the Holy Land, tribal combat in Africa, religious persecution, and starvation around the world are not just headlines, but a call to action. As Catholics, we are called to renew the earth, not escape its challenge.”
Viewed in this light, Trump’s divergence from the Church’s teaching isn’t as far as it first appears. Regarding the Muslim refugees a prohibition of entry is neither directly contrary to the Church’s teachings, nor does it preclude following the teachings. The refugee crisis needs attention, and failure to do so violates the prohibition against escaping the challenge. However, the challenge can be addressed in ways that do not require the mass immigration of refugees within our borders. Chaos has already manifested in the wake of refugee actions in Europe. This establishes that simply laying out the welcome mat doesn’t solve the problem. It merely exchanges problems.
In conflicts past the UN has established refugee camps. This would appear to be a solution that complies with the Church’s teachings. The end goal of a refugee crisis should be to have the displaced population return to their homeland and renew the land once peace has taken hold. It would be more accurate to state that Trump deviates from the Church’s position rather than the Church’s teaching.
Illegal immigration also has a similar analysis. Trump indicates he wants to deport all illegal immigrants. On it’s face, there’s nothing impermissible about deporting illegal immigrants, for no harm comes in deporting the serial criminal. The issue isn’t with deportation per se, but is rather with the scope of the proposed deportations. Mass deportations will have a significant negative impact on the families both here and in the country of origin for the deported individual. The lack of remittance will place a strain on the economic well being of the families in the country of origin, and if the deported individual was the main breadwinner for the family also for the remaining family here. While on a micro scale this is a devastating course of action it’s not devastating on a macro scale. The call isn’t to end immigration, it’s a call to end illegal immigration. As workers are deported others can be granted admission to replace the deported workers. It balances out on a macro scale.
The harm and area to be addressed is what happens on the micro scale to those impacted by the deportations. For those who remain, social services can, and should, be setup to deal with the after effects of the deportations. For those who are departed the situation is more difficult. Adjustments in foreign aid could be made to ease the adjustment, assuming that the country of origin has a stable and honest enough government to use the aid for the intended purposes. If the illegal immigrant can make a showing of his life being in danger by deportation the case can be one where the status is kicked into asylum seeking and that process play out before deportation potentially occurs. No solution is perfect, but it also isn’t a call that makes compliance with Church teaching impossible. Once again, it’s a matter of deviating from position rather than teaching.
In the final analysis, Trump deviates from the Church’s positions, but doesn’t espouse an action that violates Church teachings. Clinton violates Church teaching in regards to abortion. While her position on religious liberty doesn’t directly violate Church teaching it does leave complying with the teaching impossible. In the Hierarchy it’s a clear decision.
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