Tonight Hillary Clinton will debate against Donald Trump in the first of three presidential debates. There are plenty of debate previews to read, but none are tailored for Catholics. What should Catholics look for in tonight’s debate?
Catholics are an important swing bloc in elections so it is important that Catholics be informed by their faith when voting. Catholics also tend to be divided. Catholics were instrumental in the election of Obama in 2008.
In the United States, political identity often overshadows people’s religious identity. This is why many Catholics are aligned with the Church on some issues, but misaligned on others. The Church holds a variety of positions, but all of them are grounded in the magisterium, tradition, science, or common sense. The positions do not necessarily conform to any one political philosophy.
Tonight, Clinton and Trump begin the first of three debates. Here are the topics and each candidate’s position on a few key issues as well as the Church’s position.
We encourage you to compare these positions for yourself. Please note that candidates may change position at any time, and may make contradictory statements.
Healthcare – The Church teaches that all people are entitled to healthcare. Furthermore, that care should be affordable, and provided for free to those who cannot afford to pay. However, certain practices are inconsistent with human dignity and are not healthcare.
For example, abortion, contraception and abortifacient use are not healthcare because they impair the formation of life, destroy life, and can injure and kill people, including the unborn.
Hillary Clinton supports the Affordable Care and a.k.a. Obamacare. She continues to advocate for its expansion to ensure comprehensive coverage for all citizens. However, she is also a staunch supporter of contraception, abortifacients and abortion on demand. For many Catholics these are trump issues, meaning they outweigh any other issues. Pro-abortion candidates tend to be automatically disqualified from Catholic support.
Donald Trump supports the repeal of Obamacare and the imposition of a free market solution to health care needs. Nobody should be forced to buy insurance. However, Trump agrees that insurance should be available to all Americans who want it and it must be affordable. Trump favors a market-based solution to healthcare.
Immigration – The Church’s teaching on immigration is that we must welcome the refugee and foreigner recognize the humanity of all people who come to us for aid. The USCCB says we must welcome the foreigner out of respect and charity for the human person. We have an obligation to protect these people. People who cannot find work where they live have a right to travel, even if to a foreign land, to find work to survive.
But we must also secure our border and defend our citizens, which is also a teaching of the Church. We have a right to subject these people to reasonable judicial requirements.
Hillary Clinton wants to continue to protect many illegal immigrants from deportation. This stance is certainly welcoming and protective, but it ignores the interest of native citizens who have a right to secure their borders and subject these immigrants to a reasonable judicial process.
Donald Trump wants to deport the 11 million illegal immigrants presently in the nation. He also proposes the construction of a wall to aid border security.
This position appears to be largely at odds with what the Church teaches, which underscores the fact that no political candidate fits perfectly into a Catholic niche.
Defense – When it comes to war, the Church has a very strict set of tests that must be met before conflict can be referred to as just. This is known as the “Just War Doctrine.” The Church does not deny any nation the right to defend itself and to remain prepared for that defense within reason. However, it is too dangerously easy for nations to over-allocate resources to their militaries while failing to serve their most vulnerable citizens. Naturally, the Church prefers plowshares to swords.
Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are strong on defense. What this means to both candidates is unclear. However, we can expect both to support generous funding of the military and a likely use of the force. Neither candidate can likely claim to be close to the Church on defense.
Trade – The Church teaches that markets are made for man, not man for the market. It also stresses the right of the individual to work and the right of that person to a fair wage and leisure time. The Church does not condone any particular economic policy, beyond the importance of providing for people who are poor or destitute.
On economic policy, Hillary Clinton is a dedicated globalist. Under this philosophy, the U.S. has the right to be global in its policies and reach. This also includes negotiating free trade agreements and treaties which can result in the loss of domestic jobs as more firms outsource their labor.
Donald Trump is more of a nationalist and has expressed a strong desire to bring jobs home, to punish businesses that put away money overseas and to create new jobs in the USA. However, it is unclear how he will accomplish this and some are skeptical of his sincerity because of his great personal wealth.
Race, Law and Order – Race is an issue following the widely publicized shootings of black men across the country. The movement to keep race an issue in the public consciousness is spearheaded by the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
The Church teaches that all people are created equal. It makes no distinction based on race, sex or on any other basis, the importance and equality of all human lives. To the Church, “All Lives Matter” is a very accurate statement. Unfortunately, in the United States, the phrase “all lives matter” is often used as a retort to “Black Lives Matter,” which is a genuine social movement. The movement is rife with controversy.
Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have been criticized on the issue of race. Clinton has been blasted by the Black Lives Matter movement for past moments of alleged racism and for accepting money from the prison lobby.
And Donald Trump has made several statements many allege are racist. There are plenty of apologetics for both candidates. Far be it from us to say either candidate is genuinely racist.
The Catholic Church condemns racism in all its forms as a failure to recognize the inherent value of all human lives.