Yesterday the Huffington Post ran an article concerning comments made by Steve Fitzgerald, a Republican candidate for the Kansas state Senate, which seemed to imply that Catholics have no place in the Democratic Party.
Steve Fitzgerald, a Republican candidate for the Kansas state Senate, is defending his comments last week that Democrats should not be Catholics, saying was trying to tell a Catholic group in Kansas City about the need for the Democratic Party to change.
Fitzgerald, who is challenging state Sen. Kelly Kultala (D-Kansas City), said he told a meeting of the Polish American Club that he believes the country needs two strong political parties, and that the Democratic Party’s national platform has moved away from the views of the Bible and the Catholic Church.
“My main point is that the Democratic platform and policies nationally are an attempt to redefine marriage in effect to say what Christ has said about marriage is a lie,” Fitzgerald told HuffPost. “Christ said marriage is between one man and one woman and the Democratic platform said that it’s not true. So therefore, my point was that one cannot support the Democratic platform and be a follower of Christ.”
Attendees of the Polish American Club meeting, including Kultala, said the 25 audience members were largely silent during Fitzgerald’s presentation. Walter Kaszko, the club’s president, said Fitzgerald’s presentation differed from those of other candidates in that it centered on social and religious issues. The group — which has been meeting monthly in the same basement room since 1925 — used the presentations to determine which candidate it would back in the upcoming election. The club, which has trended Democratic since it’s founding, backed Kultala over Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald said he was not surprised that some in the audience interpreted his remarks as meaning he believed Catholics should not be Democrats, but argued that he was trying to make a broader point.
“The contention that I said that one cannot be Catholic or Christian and a Democrat is not an unreasonable summation of what I actually said,” Fitzgerald said. “My actual message was fix the party or leave.” (read the rest here)
In one sense I completely agree with Fitzgerald’s assertion that one cannot be Catholic while being a Democrat. This being said, I would also say one cannot be a Catholic while being a Republican. The Kansas Senate candidate is absolutely correct in pointing out that the Democratic Party supports policies which are in direct opposition to the teachings of the Catholic Church. Faithful Catholics cannot support the practice of abortion and should see it as their duty to stand up for religious freedom. But if we are going to use a standard that claims one cannot support a party that does not fall in line with Catholic beliefs, we must admit that the Republican Party also falls short, as does every other political party. Perhaps it would be better to say that our primary allegiance as Catholics is not to a political party, but to God.
Those of you who know me, know that I am a political junkie. I love to watch presidential debates, keep up with what is going on in congress, and even to study the history of how politics has formed our nation. One thing that I despise about politics, however, is the more and more blatant dishonesty from politicians. Near the end of last week’s Vice Presidential debate, Vice President Joe Biden remarked, “With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear. No religious institution — Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown Hospital, Mercy Hospital, any hospital — none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact.” No, Mr. Vice President, that is not a fact, it is a lie.
But let’s turn back to Mr. Fitzgerald. He is a good example of a more subtle form of dishonesty that, in my opinion, has been alive and well in the Republican Party for many years. The argument goes something like this. The Democrats support abortion. Catholics are against abortion. Abortion is really, really bad. If Catholics vote for Democrats they are supporting abortion. Republicans are against abortion and therefore the Catholic party. Vote for us. My problem with this argument is that it is also a lie. First of all, Republicans who have been elected to office have not changed much of the law when it comes to abortion. They, like the Democrats, will say and do things which they believe will help them be elected to office. We can take Rep. Paul Ryan as an example. He recently altered his position on abortion to include exceptions, so as to fall in line with his running mate. But the bigger piece of dishonesty is the fact that there are many things the Republican Party supports that are not in line with Catholic teaching that the party has no intention of changing. Sharing Catholic values is bigger than simply being against abortion and same sex marriage.
One of the Church’s greatest gifts is that our unity does not originate from a political party, nationality, race or culture. Our unity comes from God who created us all in his image. We should not see ourselves primarily as Democrats or Republicans, but as Catholics. As such, we are called upon to be witnesses to the truth to all political parties. My hope is that Catholics will take an active part in the political process, by continuing to learn about our faith, about the positions of candidates of both parties and how their actions as our representatives will effect the things we most value. I also hope that we elect those who will best represent those values. Our responsibility doesn’t end when we walk out of the voting booth, however. No matter who is elected, it is our duty to continue to challenge our leaders to support the values that will preserve the dignity of all people.