Monday, November 03, 2008

Seven Key Themes of Catholic Social Teaching: Wrapping it All Up

We've covered a lot of ground in the past week, examining the seven themes of Catholic social teaching and grading the presidential candidates based on their support for those themes:
Senator Obama has come out on top, in my rankings, with a score of 6-1 over Senator McCain. While McCain scores favorably in the "right to life" categories, Obama shows greater strength in his support for social, economic, and justice issues.

Each of the seven themes incorporates more than one issue, however, and I feel it's important to wrap up this series with a brief look at each of the issues that have been raised over the course of this series. Examining how the candidates rank on these issues will provide a more rounded view of their support for these social teachings - McCain will come out better on some of the social and economic issues while Obama will come out better on some of the right to life issues.

The complexity of this undertaking has reinforced my belief that voting a single issue is short-sighted and dangerous. Too many of these issue are inter-related, as can be seen simply in how the Church presents them. Even the right to life topic goes beyond abortion, also including unjust wars, racism, and poverty. Ignoring one area for the sake of another may simply prove to complicate both issues as well as make the problems more difficult to solve.

Although I'm sure many will disagree with my assessment of one or both of these candidates based on several specific issues, I hope I have at least made my point that these are complex topics that require complex thinking and solutions. While many choose to only see the black and white, the details (and ultimately solutions that will prove to be both workable and agreeable by the majority) are in the many shades of gray in between.

Since I've written a pretty fair amount about most of these issues throughout this series, I'm not going to dedicate a lot of space to justifying my picks here. These are the underlying criteria I used in grading the seven main themes, and my justifications can be found in my earlier posts. Throughout this process I've tried to see these issues as the Church would see them. Undoubtedly my own bias has come out in a number of them, despite my attempts to minimize that, but remember: I'm a layperson trying to make sense of the world using the tools the Church has provided. While theologians may score this list differently than I did, my results were the basis of actively developing my social conscience through study of the issues as well as prayer -- exactly what the Church requests of all members before making voting decisions.

The grading will be simple: Obama, McCain, or No Difference (ND). Of course even where the candidates share similar views, there are often fairly large differences in how they intend on tackling those issues, but in this case "ND" simply means that their end goals are compatible regardless of their paths to those goals, and ultimately that's what I'm judging here - the compatibility of those goals with Church teaching.

Environment/Climate Change: Obama
Energy Policy: Obama
Pursue justice: Obama (no mention on McCain website)
Eliminate Racism: Obama (no mention on McCain website)
End Human Trafficking: ND (no mention on either website)
Protect Human Rights: Obama (no mention on McCain website)
Seek Peace: Obama (no mention on McCain website)
Avoid the Use of Force Except as a Necessary Last Resort: Obama (no mention on McCain website)
Work at Fair, Living Wages: Obama (no mention on McCain website)
Legal Status for Immigrant Workers: ND
Participation in Unions: Obama (no mention on McCain website)
Education: ND
Civil Rights: Obama (no mention on McCain website)
Support People with Disabilities: Obama (no mention on McCain website)
Overcome Poverty: Obama (no mention on McCain website)
Prevent Domestic Violence: Obama (no mention on McCain website)
Protect Children: Obama
Right to Religious Freedom: ND (no mention on either website)
Right to Access Food: ND (not enough information on either website)
Healthcare: Obama
Housing: Obama
Marriage = 1 Man and 1 Woman: ND
Economic Policies to Support Families: Obama
Social Policies to Support Families: Obama
Abortion: McCain
Promoting Adoption: McCain (no mention on Obama website)
Euthanasia: ND (not enough information on either website)
Human Cloning: ND
Destruction of Human Embryos for Stem Cell Research: McCain
Oppose Torture: ND
Oppose Unjust wars: Obama (no mention on McCain website)
Oppose the Death Penalty: Obama
Prevent Genocide and Attacks Against Noncombatants: ND

Scorecard (out of 33 categories):
Obama: 20
McCain: 3
No Difference: 10

It still seems pretty harsh for McCain, but the fact that he goes from 1 out of 7 in the overall results to 13 out of 32 in the detailed results is statistically a big jump. Even if you weigh the right to life issues more than the other categories (as the Church does), however, it's still tough to argue that McCain's policies are in line with the Church's overall themes of social teaching. As you saw, there were a great number of issues that McCain simply has not discussed, whether on his website, in interviews, or on the stump.

It is for these reasons that I strongly support Barack Obama for president. He is far from a perfect candidate, and I reject the messianic status placed upon him by some, but he is a transformational figure at a time when just such a leader is needed, and I think his policies will protect and uplift the vulnerable while improving the lives of us all.

Thanks for reading. I hope you have enjoyed this series, and I sincerely hope, even if you don't agree with my results, that you have learned more about the issues (either directly through this series or through further research on your own spurred by these posts) as well as your faith.

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