Can Catholics in good conscience vote for either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney?
Members of the Loyola University Chicago community gathered Monday to hear a panel discuss on this topic at the school’s Lake Shore Campus.
The panel tried to answer the question “Can a Catholic Vote for Either Ticket?” and was hosted by the Joan and Bill Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage in association with Loyola’s Political Science Department.
It’s a tough call for Catholics. Democratic President Barack Obama has taken heat from Catholics for his support of a woman’s right to choose, backing gay marriage and for requiring Catholic institutions to pay for health care procedures that go against church doctrine. Republican Mitt Romney is pro-life, opposes gay marriage and wants to repeal the health care requirements. Yet some Catholics would say that Obama’s position on social issues is more supportive of the underprivileged than Romney.
Meanwhile, Democrat Vice President Joe Biden and Republican opponent Paul Ryan are both Catholic.
The Rev. Mark Bosco, S.J., director of the Hank Center moderated the panel of Loyola professors in front of more than 120 community members on the fourth floor lounge of the Klarchek Information Commons.
The panelists were Dr. Tisha Rajendra, Department of Theology; Hon. Thomas More Donnelly, Associate Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, adjunct professor at Loyola Law School; Dr. Kathleen Maas Weigert, Gannon Center for Women and Leadership, Professorship in Women and Leadership, Assistant to the Provost for Social Justice Initiatives; Dr. Alan R. Gitelson, Department of Political Science; Dr. Robert Mayer, Department of Political Science; and Dr. Michael Murphy, Director of Catholic Studies.
Each panelist took the podium to speak for 10 minutes, and then the floor opened to questions from the audience.
Mayer, a non-Catholic who has never voted for the Republican Party, defended Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan against the criticism regarding his affinity for Ayn Rand, a capitalist atheist writer.
“Paul Ryan has been treated unfairly. He’s not a social Darwinist or Libertarian or ‘disciple’ of Ayn Rand,” Mayer said. “If he was a disciple of Rand, he couldn’t be a disciple of Jesus Christ.”
Mayer continued defending Ryan by comparing him to the famous Catholic philosopher Thomas Aquinas.
“Aquinas didn’t call for redistribution, he wanted people to get what they deserved,” Mayer said. “If Thomas Aquinas can do it, so can Paul Ryan.”
Murphy disagreed, pointing out Paul Ryan’s misinterpretation of the Catholic principle of subsidiarity.
“Paul Ryan said ‘to me the Catholic principle of subsidiarity is federalism,’ but subsidiarity isn’t federalism. Federalism is federalism,” Murphy said. “Subsidiarity is the ideal that the community of higher order shouldn’t deprive the lower order of its function.”
Gitelson took a more scientific approach, observing how Catholics have voted in recent elections, and told the audience that voting behavior is more complicated than just belonging to a religious group..
“There is no single ‘Catholic’ voting block anymore,” Gitelson said. “The main issues for Catholics this election are the economy and unemployment, just like the majority of all Americans.”
After the event, Bosco was pleased with the turnout from the community at large, not just Loyola students.
“It went really well,” Bosco said. “I recognized many people from the surrounding neighborhood who come to mass at Madonna Della Strada.”
Dominic Moretti, 21, theology and advertising/public relations double major, enjoyed the varying perspectives offered at the forum.
“It’s amazing that even within one faith tradition there can be so many differing opinions,” Moretti said.
During the question and answer session, Gitelson admitted the original question of whether or not a Catholic can vote for either ticket may be too multifaceted for academia to answer concretely.
“It’s very complex,” Gitelson said. “Prayer could be the ultimate answer to this.”