Social media is not always good for our souls. Not only is it often filled with immoral content, but it is intentionally designed to reward those who indulge in the worst sorts of human social behavior with an exquisite hit of dopamine. When I use Twitter, I often get caught up in the rush of retweeting foolish comments with my own rebuttals, not to instruct the ignorant but to revel in my own brilliance. Shameful, I know, but there it is, among my countless related faults. Pride is a hell of a vice.
But there is another side to this issue that is too often ignored, particularly as we approach November’s election: the silly idea that being “civil” or “nuanced” or “compassionate” is an actual concern in our present political climate. This may strike you as a strange statement, considering that I just mentioned my own sinful habits in regard to online interactions, but hear me out.
Civility doesn’t matter.
In fact, this specific sort of civility-obsession which I will explain in a moment is morally perilous, directly contributing to the death of human souls and bodies.
Too many Catholics seem to have a very warped understanding of how the Church views mortal versus venial sin. “All iniquity is sin. And there is a sin unto death,” says 1 John 5:17. Though all sin is evil, some sins lead to eternal separation from Our Lord if we die without repenting of them, and some sins do not. Pretty basic knowledge for the kind of person who goes to Mass every Sunday, no? Unfortunately, when we observe the real-world application of moral theology to matters of politics, it becomes clear that even otherwise decent Catholics fail to understand this hierarchy of sin and, more specifically, the hierarchy of ways in which we may participate in sin.
There is no place where this is more obvious than the criticisms levied against Donald Trump by Catholics who should know better. At least with the dyed-in-the-wool-leftcaths, we know what we are getting. It’s not surprising when we see the typical Trump Derangement Syndrome talking points from the likes of NCR. It should, however, concern us deeply when we see otherwise reasonable Catholics leading fence-sitters straight into the gnarled claws of Biden and Harris.
The basic question of this election is not even a question, and yet, it is one I find myself constantly having to answer. For those who would appreciate a simple breakdown of this matter, allow me to excerpt an excellent article from Bishop Gracida back in the (comparatively) halcyon days of 2004. Discussing the infamous Benedict XVI statement on this question, he writes:
“When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons strictly defined.
Since abortion and euthanasia have been defined by the Church as the most serious sins prevalent in our society, what kind of reasons could possibly be considered proportionate enough to justify a Catholic voting for a candidate who is known to be pro-abortion? None of the reasons commonly suggested could even begin to be proportionate enough to justify a Catholic voting for such a candidate. Reasons such as the candidate’s position on war, or taxes, or the death penalty, or immigration, or a national health plan, or social security, or aids, or homosexuality, or marriage, or any similar burning societal issues of our time are simply lacking in proportionality.
There is only one thing that could be considered proportionate enough to justify a Catholic voting for a candidate who is known to be pro-abortion, and that is the protection of innocent human life.“ (Emphasis mine)
In the 2020 election, you have three choices. You can vote for Trump, you can vote for a third party, or you can abstain from voting. I tend to agree with Bishop Gracida that the latter two options are usually imprudent (unless, for example, you live in a reliably blue/red state and wish to make a protest vote for a truly Christian party or similar), but hey, that’s a decision you are free to make in the eyes of the moral teaching of the Church. The decision you are unequivocally not free to make is justifying a vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris because Trump will cut oil regulations or start a war you don’t agree with. I find it amusingly ironic that it is only by the admittance of a correct understanding of genuine “proportionate reasons” – constantly abused and misunderstood by Catholics who insist on supporting Democrats – that we can vote for Donald Trump despite his support for homosexual “marriage”, another non-negotiable for the Catholic voter!
In any case, it is my theory that the real reason that so many otherwise-conservative Catholics have an issue with voting for Trump has little to do with his (admittedly) horrible stances on so-called “LGBT issues”, or war, or healthcare, or the death penalty (the first being the only one that is a true non-negotiable), or any of the other common claims.
Any of those would certainly reveal a poor understanding of moral theology, but I believe it is actually far worse: People don’t want to vote for Trump because he is blunt, and rude, and even cusses.
In my many conversations on this topic, this seems to be the crux of it: being nice and cuddly and not insulting anyone is something that actually needs to come into the conversation about preventing the literal murder of babies. Oh, sure, Jill Dixiecrat will tell you that of course abortion is morally evil, and of course she is still against it even as a Democrat. But in practice, it is clear: these Catholics are willing to sacrifice unborn children to the altar of civility, and I’ve had enough of it.
So no, I don’t care if I hurt the feelings of a Catholic Democrat who is having a very sad and icky struggle of conscience because Trump talked about grabbing a woman’s p-word. I just don’t. I care about fighting for a future where my grandchildren look back on me with disgust for how little I did to prevent the genocide taking place around me every single day of the year.
Becoming Saints is a tricky business, but like the hierarchy of sin, there is too a “hierarchy of sanctity”. We start by eradicating our mortal sins, and then we fight past our venial sins, and then we tackle our imperfections. While on a personal level I strive to improve on the latter two each day (to admittedly varying degrees of success), it is simply infuriating when focus is being placed on a not-so-gentle tweet to a Catholic who votes for baby killing.
I don’t care if Trump cusses. I don’t care if Trump has a history of piggish behavior towards women. I don’t care if Trump says mean things that hurt Joe Biden’s feelings. And I don’t care if his supporters use too many vomit emojis to describe Demoncrats, Killary, and Obummer. I suppose I’ll concede to the pedants among us that these issues do matter a little, they are just so far down the list that they become practically not worth even thinking about.
Honestly, have any of these people panicking over Trump’s crassness read some of the things that Saint Jerome said to his fellow Catholics? If Trump’s personal mortal sins are not enough to preclude a Catholic from voting for him, surely we can recognize that his venial sins and imperfections do not even come close.
We need to get a handle on this culture of faux-pearl-clutching effeminacy before the meteor hits. Let’s start in November.