By Raymond Duffy
If SVC students listened to National Public Radio early in the morning of Oct. 6, they might have heard a familiar voice. Dr. Christopher McMahon, professor of theology, spoke in an interview during NPR’s Morning Edition concerning the Catholic vote in the upcoming election.
McMahon explained why Tom Gjelten, one of the hosts of the segment, invited him on.
Gjelten “had originally reached out to local Catholics and was looking for undecided Catholic voters in Westmoreland County because it seemed that the Republican strategy for Pennsylvania centered on “conservative” Catholics … and needed some way to bridge conservative and progressive Catholic voices in the piece,” McMahon said.
Catholics make up over a fifth of the American electorate, according to the American bishop’s count in the Official Catholic Directory from 2016. Swinging such a large bloc of voters into a party’s camp is clearly attractive to both Republicans and Democrats in an election which promises to be hotly contested. In 2016, a narrow majority of 52% of Catholics voted for then-Republican nominee Donald Trump.
The Biden-Harris campaign website, on a page catering to Catholics, quotes Joe Biden.
“I’m a practicing Catholic. I believe faith is a gift. And the first obligation we all have is, ‘Love your God,’ the second one is, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ … ‘Treat people with dignity.’ Everyone’s entitled to dignity, that’s a basic tenet in my household,” Biden said.
The page then goes on to highlight the Democratic nominee’s plans, which include work to “build an economy where everyone comes along and we protect the ‘least of these’” and “respect the dignity of work and give workers back the power to earn what they’re worth,” as well as “serve as stewards of our creation and protect our planet against climate change.”
Trump’s website, on the other hand, links to articles by Catholics such as Janet Morana, executive director of Priests for Life and co-founder of the Silent No More Awareness campaign.
In a Breitbart opinion article, Morana claims that Trump has kept campaign promises.
For example, “He vowed to uphold the religious freedom guaranteed to every American in the First Amendment,” she writes.
Morana also praises Trump’s “accomplishments on behalf of the unborn,” which include “his support of two pro-life bills in Congress, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act and the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and his historic address to the 2020 March for Life.”
Morana does acknowledge that “some people take exception to some of the president’s habits, Twitter in particular.”
“The president reacts without a filter, which … can be off-putting for some. But the thing to keep in mind is that by voting for his re-election, we are not canonizing him as a saint. We are giving four more years to someone who has a proven track record of major accomplishments,” Morana writes.
McMahon’s comments on NPR highlight the choice Catholic voters face in the 2020 election.
“The dominant value that causes Catholic voters to vote either direction has to do with the dignity of the human person and how to construe that,” he said. “In one direction, the dignity of the most vulnerable, the unborn, the ones that must be cared for and protected. And then towards the other end, it's the vulnerable of the minority, those who've been oppressed by economic injustice and warfare.”
Off the air, McMahon also had advice for the Saint Vincent community specifically.
“I’d just like everyone to recognize the importance of having strong and thoughtful conservative and progressive voices in conversations with one another. Progressives should cherish thoughtful/engaged conservatives, and vice versa,” McMahon said. “Conversations are more important than megaphones or ‘platforms.’”