The American Catholics I know intend to vote Trump, not because they feel affection for him or many of his policies but because they have had years of the Obama administration undermining freedom of conscience and they know that Hillary Clinton would erode it still further.
It is also important to understand that life issues are an essential voting matter there, in contrast to here, where even among Catholics there is a kind of tacit admission that the battle over abortion is either lost or ought not be engaged at the level of parliamentary elections as a defining issue. Mrs Clinton’s support for partial-birth abortion and abortion on demand for late-term babies is enough to disqualify her for many devout American candidates. How you treat the most vulnerable members of your society and the very future of your race must be a political issue.
Trump’s objectionable views must be weighed against the dehumanisation and violence threatened towards the unborn by his opponent and her contempt for those who oppose it. Their personal merits notwithstanding, the president also nominates judges to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court will decide the future of so many of the conscience issues which face Catholics.
I discussed politics with many people at the gala dinner for the local crisis pregnancy counselling service in a suburb of Minneapolis. There were 400 people gathered in a vast hall at a country club. Though this is a local charity, the organisation was incredibly professional and seemed to have involved much of the local Catholic community. On tables lining the walls, 200 hampers contained collections of foodstuffs, toiletries, gifts, toys and every possible kind of consumer good you can imagine or fit into a box. Each had a suggested value attached and guests were invited to place bids for them in sealed envelopes.
After a very palatable dinner and speeches there was an auction of larger items: holiday lets, power tools, a side of beef, a course of life-coaching … The dinner and auction together raised $110,000 (£89,000). That represents an average of $275 (£222) per head donated on the night, to say nothing of the fact that everything auctioned had also been donated. It is hard to imagine such a turnout in a suburb of London among, say, four Catholic parishes, let alone any single event raising so much money in one night for a good cause.
Interestingly, at no point did I hear anyone talk of “life”. They talked about “saving babies”. Perhaps that’s how we need to recast the issue here. It is not merely emotive to do so; it is the truth, as we learned that evening from the speech given by the founder of 40 Days for Life, David Bereit. This campaign, now about half-way through its 2016 vigil in cities all over the world, claims to have shut down 43 abortion facilities, converted 113 abortionists and saved more than 12,000 babies.
How to continue reading…
This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week
The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection