Abortion, Torture, and the Juice-Box Theologians

There is a movement well underway to convince faithful Catholics they do not have a political home in the Republican Party.

The effort is comprised of former political conservatives who now believe they are more Catholic than anybody else and therefore have cast a pox on both political parties, which is just another way for the abortion party to continue winning.

They want you to believe that the water boarding of three terrorists more than a decade ago is on par with 50 million deaths from abortion, and that any desire for smaller government and less regulation is a form of radical individualism, Randism, or libertarianism that is therefore anti-Catholic.

Overtly political left-wingers and dissenters at places like the National Catholic Reporter, and to a lesser extent Commonweal have been making a case like this for years. They noticed that the so-called non-negotiable issues of abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, same-sex “marriage” and human cloning have had a galvanizing political effect on faithful Catholics.


They were deeply dismayed that dunder-head warmonger George Bush not only captured the way Catholics speak about public policy; he captured their vote, too. In fact, he stomped a dissenting Catholic who ran against him. Bush not only won the faithful Catholic vote, those who actually go to Mass, but he captured the generics, those who haven’t seen a church in twenty years but still identify as Catholic when pollsters call.

None of this happened by accident. The Bush apparatus knew what they were doing. They put together a formidable team for Catholic outreach and they worked the Catholic side of the street assiduously. There were White House briefings and regular phone calls and the courting of Catholic intellectuals like Father Richard John Neuhaus, Michael Novak, George Weigel and Robert George, who were happy to give their advice and counsel, happy to defend Bush when he deserved it, happy even to make his case to the Holy Father when the need arose.

The political left tried in vain to convince faithful Catholics that other issues rose to the level of abortion, same-sex “marriage” and the rest of the non-negotiables. We were told economic issues rose that high; the minimum wage, the social safety net, universal government health care and all the rest. They argued that the death penalty rose that high. They argued the GOP was not really concerned with abortion after all because decades had passed and the GOP had not overturned Roe v. Wade.

So, we were told to leave the GOP and join the Democrats even though they fight to the death any restrictions on abortion, never saw a gay “marriage” they didn’t love, fought tooth and nail for embryo-destructive research, are enthusiastic about euthanasia, but still want to raise the minimum wage.

Faithful Catholics and even generics ignored this pitch in droves, bolstered in part by Pope Benedict who said others issues could not rise as high in our political estimation as abortion.

Then came the Obama campaign and along with it huge money from George Soros and gay billionaires to create lefty Catholic groups that mirrored those on the right. Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Catholics United were two of them. Their purposes were to convince Catholics that doctrinal issues were really prudential and that prudential issues were really doctrinal. They strove to convince faithful Catholics that the GOP really didn’t care about the non-negotiables and that we were suckers for ever thinking they did.

Lackluster campaigns of both McCain and Romney did not help. It also did not help that both of them were viewed, correctly in some instances, as less than stalwart on the non-negotiables. And we know the result has been catastrophic. Same-sex “marriage” is upon us: gays in the military: horrific anti-lifers on the Supreme Court. But hey, we’ve got Obamacare, only the largest expansion of the abortion right after Roe v. Wade with free contraception and abortion drugs to boot.

The coziness of politically conservative Catholics with the GOP in general and the Bush administration in particular gave birth to a new movement to drive faithful Catholics away from the GOP.

One thing to admit is the terrible temptation to trim your sails when your guy is in the White House. This happens. You are called upon to defend actions you would attack if done by the other guy. A good example is the Bush decision on embryonic stem cell research. Recall his decision not to fund research on any new lines but to fund research on lines already created. That is a non-negotiable becoming negotiable. Even so, does anyone think the Democrat would have done any better? And, his decision had the effect of taking the issue off the hot stove and giving ethical research the time to catch up, which it has in spades.

I first noticed this group of thunder-bolt tossing uber-Catholics at a blog called Vox Nova, which for a good long while was exorcized over the question of water boarding. I engaged the debate and suggested this was a distraction from real issues and a way to convince faithful Catholics that they could not vote for the Republicans because of it. You would have thought I was the biggest heretic since Martin Luther.

People went to the board of directors of the group I run asking for my firing because a heretic like me certainly could not run a Catholic organization. I was excoriated in columns and comment boxes. I was schooled on Elizabeth Anscombe’s essay about why numbers do not matter; that three water-boardings are as important as 50 million abortions, or something like that.

This started all up again when a few months ago the Democratic staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee released a 6,000-page report on “torture” wherein they did not interview anyone from the CIA, but spent most of their time with defense attorneys for terrorists jailed in Guantanamo Bay.

This group of writers hasn’t exactly downplayed the non-negotiables as to expand them into meaninglessness. Gun control is now a non-negotiable. So is the minimum wage. Universal government provided health care is a non-negotiable and now, with the impending papal encyclical on the environment, global warming is one, too.

I got into a debate a few weeks ago on the topic of water boarding. What I found is these juice-box theologians, that is, mostly young newly minted but largely unemployed PhDs, believe that water boarding is so important that one must cast their vote for president based on it and it alone.

Talk about single-issue voting.

This may be an important issue but not one that rises to the level of determining my vote nor should it. There are too many other important issues like—yes—abortion.

Has the GOP overturned Roe v. Wade just yet? No. Does the GOP desert this issue on a fairly regular basis? Sure. Are there anti-lifers all over the GOP elite? You bet. Even so, the GOP remains the only viable political vessel for stopping what Pope St. John Paul the Great called the most important human rights issue of our time. He did not say that about torture, or the minimum wage, or universal government-run health care.

As for Catholic Social Teaching, the cudgel this group likes to beat us with, who says Catholic Social Teaching requires us to follow the policy prescriptions of the hard left? The following fits right in with Catholic Social Teaching, if only Catholics were willing to put it this way:

Eliminate the corporate income tax. Eliminate the capital gains tax, and the death tax. Eliminate OSHA and the Department of Education. At the same time, run a national campaign out of the White House encouraging people to finish high school, get married, go to church, and have babies. Sit back and watch all boats rise.

While we’re at it, let’s get the Federal government out of the land business. The Feds own a third of all US land, up to half and more of many western states. Let’s have a modern day land-rush for all those Distributists out there who are just itching to fish, farm or make cheese—though one suspects they’ll stay exactly where they are, blogging and adjunct teaching.

Austin Ruse


Austin Ruse is a contributing editor to Crisis and president of the Center for Family & Human Rights (C-FAM). He is the author of the upcoming Catholic Case for Trump (Regnery, 2020). You can follow him on Twitter @austinruse.

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