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No Catholic or other Christian Should Support the Candidacy of Bernie Sanders

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A choice to support Bernie Sanders, when other alternatives are clearly available, is morally incoherent and unacceptable.

Legalized abortion on demand is an open rejection of the entire ethic of being our brothers (and sisters) keeper. There can be no enduring lasting solidarity upon which to build a secure future in a culture that kills its own children and calls it a right. No politician or political candidate who advocates for legalized abortion, or for euthanasia, passive or active, should ever receive the support of Catholic Christians, or any other Christian. That includes Senator Bernie Sanders.

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CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - I am deeply disturbed to hear and read about Catholics and other Christians expressing support for the candidacy of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. In a recent email dialogue with a younger Catholic man I respect, I pointed out that the abysmal record of the Senator from Vermont demonstrates his open and continuing opposition to the fundamental Human Right to Life of our youngest neighbors in the womb.

Senator Sanders has received a 100% rating from NARAL, the National Abortion Rights Action League. The organization now wants to be called "NARAL Pro-Choice America". They use the word choice in an attempt to make their activities and positions sound more acceptable. However, the child whose life is taken in every procured abortion has no choice. Here is an excerpt from his response to my email:

"I am painfully aware of this fact. I live with it by imagining that he can't and won't do much about it. Neither will any of the Republican candidates. Even with 8 years of George W. Bush, we did not see any curtailment of this practice. However, if people do better financially, if they have access to affordable healthcare, we can help the problem. Many women seek abortions because they gruesomely think they can't "afford" a baby. If people have living wages and affordable healthcare, we may see fewer people make that decision. Of course I could be wrong, but I'm willing to give the man 4 years to try."

What was most distressing about the response is that it disregards the fact that there are several other candidates who affirm the Right to Life of our youngest neighbors in the womb. People misunderstand the moral analysis involved when someone has to choose between candidates who all fail to recognize the Right to Life - and then chooses the best between them. In that instance, they are not choosing the candidate because of his or her denial of the Right to Life, but for other reasons, which may or may not be legitimate.

That is not the case in this election season. There are clear alternatives, so it is not a matter of choosing between candidates who all oppose the Right to Life.  Bernie Sanders not only denies the Right to Life of children in the womb, but given his view supporting the expansive role of the Federal government, he promises to fully fund procured abortions with tax dollars, without any restrictions. A choice to support Bernie Sanders, when other alternatives are clearly available, is morally incoherent and unacceptable for Catholics and other Christians who understand their faith, the Natural Moral Law, and their obligations as citizens. 

The phrase "moral coherence" was used in an important instruction released in 2002 from the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith entitled a "Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life". That teaching was directed to "the Bishops of the Catholic Church and, in a particular way, to Catholic politicians and all lay members of the faithful called to participate in the political life of democratic societies."

My friend who wrote that email is a Catholic Christian, a layman. So, lets select just a few pertinent sections of the teaching of the Catholic Church he embraces by his membership. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life." (CCC# 2270)

It then insists that the "inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation: The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being's right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death."

"The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined. As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child's rights." (CCC #2273)

The clarity of Catholic teaching on the Right to Life of children in the womb is also clearly affirmed in the "Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church" sections pertaining to the political participation of Catholics. (See, e.g. #565-574) Anyone who thinks that the teachers of the Catholic Church are not speaking clearly on this matter are simply wrong. It is they who are not discharging their duty as Catholic citizens to vote in a manner which is morally coherent. Here is an excerpt from the Compendium which explains this duty:

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"The social doctrine of the Church is not an intrusion into the government of individual countries. It is a question of the lay Catholic's duty to be morally coherent, found within one's conscience, which is one and indivisible. There cannot be two parallel lives in their existence: on the one hand, the so-called 'spiritual life', with its values and demands; and on the other, the so-called 'secular' life, that is, life in a family, at work, in social responsibilities, in the responsibilities of public life and in culture. The branch, engrafted to the vine which is Christ, bears its fruit in every sphere of existence and activity."

"In fact, every area of the lay faithful's lives, as different as they are, enters into the plan of God, who desires that these very areas be the 'places in time' where the love of Christ is revealed and realized for both the glory of the Father and service of others. Living and acting in conformity with one's own conscience on questions of politics is not slavish acceptance of positions alien to politics or some kind of 'confessionalism', but rather the way in which Christians offer their concrete contribution so that, through political life, society will become more just and more consistent with the dignity of the human person."

Finally, I want to address the incorrect interpretation of the mercy message of Pope Francis which seems to be spreading like a bad winter cold. Make no mistake, Pope Francis is clear on affirming the Right to Life of children in the womb. For example, in his first apostolic exhortation entitled The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis wrote:

"(A)mong the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care, with particular love and concern, are unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us. Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this. Frequently, as a way of ridiculing the Church's effort to defend their lives, attempts are made to present her position as ideological, obscurantist and conservative.

"Yet this defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right. It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development. Human beings are ends in themselves and never a means of resolving other problems. Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defense of human rights, which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be. Reason alone is sufficient to recognize the inviolable value of each single human life, but if we also look at the issue from the standpoint of faith, "every violation of the personal dignity of the human being cries out in vengeance to God and is an offence against the creator of the individual.

"Precisely because this involves the internal consistency of our message about the value of the human person, the Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question. I want to be completely honest in this regard. This is not something subject to alleged reforms or "modernizations". It is not "progressive" to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life. (Par. 213,214)

The defense of the Right to Life of children in the womb is the only authentic solidarity position, not the positions of Senator Bernie Sanders opposing that Right. The Child in the womb is our first neighbor. It is always and everywhere wrong to take the life of an innocent neighbor. When there is no recognition of a preeminent Right to Life, there quickly follows an erosion of the infrastructure of all human rights. Human rights do not exist in a vacuum; they are goods of the human person.

Our failure to recognize that our first neighbors in the womb have a right to be born and live a full life in our community undermines our claim to being a compassionate society. All the talk about compassion for the poor rings hollow when we fail to hear the cry of the ones whom Teresa of Calcutta rightly called the "poorest of the poor".

We are responsible for one another. We are our brother and sister's keeper. Created in the Image of God, men and women are called into relationship and are, by both grace and nature, social beings. We will never find the fullness of human freedom and flourishing outside of relationships, with God and with one another. Those relationships began, for everyone of us, in our mother's wombs. 

Medical science also clearly confirms what our conscience long ago told us. We now routinely operate upon these children in the womb who are our first neighbors. We send 3 and 4D ultrasound photos of them  as they grow in that first home of the whole human race. These children are members of our human family. It is always and everywhere wrong to take their lives.

The Right to Life also informs our criminal justice system. For example, in our criminal law, we prosecute someone who intentionally takes the life of a woman with child in a vehicular homicide for two criminal offenses. The irony is immediately obvious to anyone who will put aside the sophistry of those who deny the Right to Life of children in the womb. That includes Senator Bernie Sanders.

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Legalized abortion on demand is an open rejection of the entire ethic of being our brothers (and sisters) keeper. There can be no enduring lasting solidarity upon which to build a secure future in a culture that kills its own children and calls it a right. No politician or political candidate who advocates for legalized abortion, or for euthanasia, passive or active, should ever receive the support of Catholic Christians, or any other Christian. That includes Senator Bernie Sanders.

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Deacon Keith A. Fournier is the Founder and Chairman of Common Good Foundation and Common Good Alliance. A Catholic Deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, he and his wife Laurine have five grown children and seven grandchildren, He is a human rights lawyer and public policy advocate who has long been active at the intersection of faith and culture.He served as the first and founding Executive Director of the American Center for Law and Justice in the nineteen nineties and is now Special Counsel to Liberty Counsel and Chief Counsel to the Common Good Legal Defense Fund. He is the Editor in Chief of Catholic Online, a senior writer for THE STREAM and a featured columnist for the Catholic News Agency.

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