- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 21, 2008

COMMENTARY:

The Catholic bloc is the key swing vote in this year’s election that will decide the next president of the United States - and shape our destiny in this watershed moment in history. Catholics must support Sen. John McCain.

Both campaigns are courting Catholics vigorously. Catholics constitute America’s largest single religious denomination. The church has 47 million adherents - nearly one-quarter of all registered voters. In pivotal battleground states, such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Missouri, they form almost a third of the electorate. Moreover, 41 percent of Catholics are independents.

Polls reveal many Catholics remain undecided. They are also evenly divided: Catholic conservatives back Mr. McCain; Catholic progressives champion Sen. Barack Obama. “Social justice” Catholics believe Mr. Obama is their man: In their view, he advocates the “broader teachings” of the church. He puts national health care, a cleaner environment, ending the Iraq war and devoting more resources to the poor above the “single” issue of abortion.

However, this reasoning violates church doctrine. Pope Benedict XVI has made it crystal-clear that abortion is the seminal moral challenge of our time. It is not simply a “single” issue like guns, taxes or immigration. It is equivalent to the Jewish question of the 1930s: Will we allow an entire category of people - the unborn - to be murdered because they are viewed as less than human?

Pope Benedict rightly argues that legalized abortion asserts “the law of the jungle over the rule of law”; the triumph of power, death and destruction over the weakest members of our society. Abortion abrogates the most fundamental of all rights: The right to exist in God’s image and according to His divine plan. This is why the church has explicitly - and repeatedly - stated that abortion is mass murder. Catholics have a primary moral obligation to outlaw it. Abortion is state-sanctioned infanticide; abortion trumps all other concerns.

Mr. Obama is a staunch proponent of abortion rights - even at taxpayer expense. He did not support the ban on partial-birth abortion. Mr. Obama is so radical he opposed a bill that would provide legal protection and medical assistance to babies who survived botched abortions.

Mr. McCain, on the other hand, has a solid anti-abortion voting record. He also vows to appoint conservative justices to the high court. The current 5-4 liberal majority is teetering. There will be one or two Supreme Court vacancies in the next president’s term. A McCain administration can finally achieve what the pro-life movement has sought for decades: the repeal of Roe v. Wade.

Mr. McCain is also a better advocate for the traditional family. Like Mr. Obama, he opposes same-sex marriage. Yet the Republican maverick promises to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act, which enables states that do not want gay marriage to maintain their laws. Mr. Obama wants to repeal the legislation: He is pro-gay rights in everything but name.

Even on the so-called Catholic “social justice” issues, Mr. McCain is stronger. The Republican offers a health care plan that will significantly expand coverage to the uninsured, lower costs and create greater choice. Mr. Obama promises the outdated liberal model of government-run health care. The result will be more bureaucracy, a massive and expensive new entitlement program, and rationed care.

Catholic Democrats like to portray Mr. Obama’s foreign policy as consistent with the church’s teachings. They are wrong. Mr. Obama is not antiwar. He favors adding more troops and resources into Afghanistan - a policy directly at odds with the Vatican. He has also called for unilateral U.S. air strikes in Pakistan. He is not a pacifist, but a liberal interventionist.

Many Catholics - including Pope Benedict - believe the Iraq war was a mistake. The war, however, is nearly won. The troops will be coming home. We must now decide: When and on what terms?

Mr. Obama wants a military withdrawal by 2010; Mr. McCain a little later - perhaps by 2012. More importantly, Mr. Obama seeks to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. He will withdraw American power without ensuring a stable, democratic Iraq. Catholics must therefore ponder: Should the immense sacrifice of American blood and treasure be in vain? Or should it be for the grander cause of freedom and American national interests?

Progressives in the church are deluded if they believe Mr. Obama embodies Catholic social thought. They confuse watered-down socialism for Catholicism. The church stands for civilized decency and the natural moral order - as is seen through its implacable defense of individual dignity, human rights and the traditional family. Mr. Obama’s policies will only lead to more misery and impoverishment. There is nothing “just” about them - social or otherwise.

As a devout Catholic, I too have some misgivings about the Republican nominee. But there is no doubt that in this election one candidate better upholds many of the cardinal teachings of the Catholic Church: John McCain.

Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist at The Washington Times.