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Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

First Principles, Catholics and Trump

May 13, 2016

It might just be me, but it seems really strange to find those claiming to be good Catholics apparently abandoning core principles of Catholic social teaching as they engage in contemporary political debate. I hope theirs is not just a Sunday faith, and the rest of the week they drop it all and embrace secular notions of political activism and practice.

At least that’s how it seems to me when I watch some of these folks who have been hopping on the Trump bandwagon lately, singing his praises as if he is the long awaited messiah. If I can boldly say so, I think I may possibly have more respect for some of these core Catholics teachings than some of these Catholics do!

And I say all this as a Protestant! Of course I have seen plenty of my own evangelicals bow down to the Trump altar as well, and it grieves me to see this. But lately plenty of Catholics are now doing the same thing. In their efforts to justify all this, they seem to grasp at straws, and jump on anything he says which might remotely be viewed as something they can run with.

Thus they will believe Trump today when he throws out a few seemingly prolife statements, and fully ignore his lifelong commitment to liberalism and pro-abortion. This is mind boggling really. So now they are running with Trump at all costs, because they actually believe – despite all the evidence to the contrary – something he has just said.

principles 1This is hyper gullibility in my books. It is not how any conservative, let alone Catholic, should be behaving. As I wrote yesterday about Trump’s “evolving”:

-And if Trump changes his tune again tomorrow on abortion – or whatever – will you drop your support for him then?
-If not, why not?
-Will you just flip flop along when he flip flops along?
-Why exactly do you believe him now?
-Did you also believe him when he said the exact opposite in the past?
-If not, why not?
-Will you simply believe everything Trump says that you happen to like, while just ignoring everything he says you don’t happen to like?
-Is that how we are to approach political candidates now?
-Is that how we should approach Hillary then?

The sad truth is, their hatred of Clinton is so strong and so absolute that it seems anything goes – ANYTHING – in order to get rid of her. Thus they will even spruik for a lifelong lefty and liar, and hope against hope that somehow he might be better.

Well I beg to differ: while I have no time at all for Hillary Clinton, I do not see her as the greatest evil ever to disgrace our planet. What, is she really worse than Stalin, or Hitler, or Genghis Khan? Yes she is real bad news – make no mistake about it, but so is Trump.

Just what will these people so consumed in their hatred of Hillary do? Is anything up for grabs in this game? Are all options morally licit since folks seem to think she is the Antichrist? If someone should go to the extreme and assassinate her, will that somehow be justified?

Of course most sane folks would say of course not. But the rhetoric I hear coming from these Trump supporters really makes me wonder to be honest. They seem to think she is the epitome of all evil, and therefore anything is acceptable if we can stop her.

So is that how long-standing Catholic social teaching works? Does the end really justify the means? Do we form unholy alliances, put our trust in scoundrels, do whatever it takes to elect the most immoral, unprincipled and duplicitous candidate in a long time – all just to stick it to Hillary?

But don’t mind me – I am just a Protestant, so these pro-Trump Catholics can ignore me all they like. And I am sure many have. But what will they do with other Catholics who also are sickened and appalled by Trump, and by his religious supporters? For example, one leading Catholic thinker has just penned an important piece which is well worth reading here.

I refer to the piece, “Now What?” by George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington, D.C.’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies. Both Catholics and Protestants can greatly benefit by this. Let me quote from this insightful article, offering the last four paragraphs in which he says:

It’s become a cliché to say that “no candidate and no party fully embraces the vision of Catholic social doctrine.” True enough. But previous election cycles gave Catholic voters a prudential choice between candidates who embodied at least some of the major themes of the social doctrine. What is the thoughtful Catholic voter to do when neither of the presidential candidates is even minimally committed to human dignity, the common good, subsidiarity, and solidarity, as the social doctrine understands those concepts? When one party has elevated lifestyle libertinism to the first of constitutional principles (and is prepared to kill unborn children, jettison free speech, and traduce religious freedom in service to hedonism), while the other is prepared to nominate a fantasist who spun grotesque fairy tales about an alleged connection between an opponent’s family and Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before he closed the deal?
That will be a question to ponder carefully in the next six months. The immediate take-away that the American democratic experiment is in deep trouble—and that trouble has something to do with moral judgment.
The reduction of voting to a visceral exercise in anger-management, identity politics, or class resentment (cf. “Trump campaign,” “Hillary campaign,” and “Bernie campaign”) tells us that our political culture is sick. And if the political culture is sick, that must have something to do with the state of the culture as a whole. Did we really imagine that a culture of self-absorption and vulgarity, taking its cues from the passions of adolescence, was not going to cash out in our politics? If so, let’s hope that we’ve been disabused of that fallacy. Such a sobering-up would be one, modest silver lining in the ominous storm clouds now gathering.
The reconstruction of a morally serious political culture is essential, if American democracy is not to descend into incoherence and what an eminent churchman once called the “dictatorship of relativism.” That reconstruction could start with U.S. Catholics leavening our politics—and the culture as a whole—with Catholic social doctrine.

Amen. And of course it is not just Catholic social teaching that affirms all this. The Founding Fathers of America also routinely stated these basic truths. Consider just three of them:

“Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.” John Quincy Adams

“In selecting men for office, let principle be your guide. Regard not the particular sect or denomination of the candidate – look to his character.” Noah Webster

“On matters of style, swim with the current, on matters of principle, stand like a rock.” Thomas Jefferson

In my eyes, there is absolutely no way a Christian can claim a vote for Hillary or a vote for Trump is a vote for principle – be it conservative principles or Christian principles. Catholics should understand this just as much as anyone else – maybe even more so.

www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2016/05/now-what

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14 Responses to First Principles, Catholics and Trump

  • Bill,
    Usually I agree with you 100% on things, but not on this one. Yes, Hillary’s presidency WOULD be the worse thing that can happen. Do you still have US citizenship? Will you be voting here and Australia?

    Hillary’s presidency will be like another year of Obama, in every way. Looking at the topic of your blog tonight, though I have not read it yet, you already get the idea of his Constitutional over reach and “decrees” and desire to legislate like a King. She will be the same. In Foreign policy she has already gotten servicemen and an ambassador killed as she sat and watched. I AM a single issue voter and proud of it. If one cannot care for the most week and vulnerable among us, who can one care for? Can you care for an ambassador and servicemen? The safety of women and little girls using the restroom? That is the yardstick I used for Obama, as a Catholic, and I have been proven right.
    Hillary has already promised to over ride the Hyde Amendment, force all Christians to fund abortions, said we need to “get over our faith issues and support abortion”, declared Cecile Richards and PP her “best friends” and promised to always “be their best friends”, no, it can’t get any worse than that!!
    I look at actions, words are cheap. Trump has already hired a pro life advisor to help him with pro life policy. He has promised to pick a strong pro life VP. If he breaks that promise before the election, of course I would take that as a BIG strike down!! However if he keeps it then that is an action in his favor. Politicians ALL lie. Gov Casey of PA was one of the best pro life democrats I ever knew of. I voted for his son as senator of my state, thinking he would be “pro life” like his Dad, he ran on his Dad’s name. Since then he has voted in lockstep with Obama, I was fooled once. I no longer go by ANY politicians words, for better or worse, only actions.

  • What is the alternative to Trump?

  • Thanks Michelle, but you are all over the place here. You claim all politicians are liars. Are they all really? In which case you should not believe any of them, ever. I happen to believe some are far more trustworthy than others, and can be supported to some extent. But you should not support any, given what you just said. So which is it?

    And given that Trump is a lifelong lefty and a lifelong liar, why in the world would you believe a word he says about anything? He of course has been pro-abortion his whole life, and flip flops on this as often he he changes his shirts, or wives, yet you are going to believe him now (even though you claim all politicians are lairs)!? I am staggered!

    And you also mention the transgender bathroom issue which you see as an important matter (and it certainly is, but that simply proves you are NOT a single issue voter, but care about a number of issues, as we all should). Trump has already said he fully favours this!! He said it is wrong for states to impose laws keeping men out of girl’s bathrooms!! So you hate the idea of having men stalk girls in bathrooms, yet you want to elect Trump who is OK with this!? You will put your faith in this man to somehow save America? Even though you said all politicians are liars? Sorry, I see a real disconnect here. We really must think a whole lot more carefully here.

    You may need to read this article: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2016/05/13/an-evolving-trump/

    In it I ask a series of questions. I would be very interested indeed in how you answer these questions about the master flip flopper, the one who his fans claim is “evolving”:

    -So does that mean you believe Hillary can change as well?
    -If not, why not?
    -And if Trump changes his tune again tomorrow on abortion – or whatever – will you drop your support for him then?
    -If not, why not?
    -Will you just flip flop along when he flip flops along?
    -Why exactly do you believe him now?
    -Did you also believe him when he said the exact opposite in the past?
    -If not, why not?
    -Will you simply believe everything Trump says that you happen to like, while just ignoring everything he says you don’t happen to like?
    -Is that how we are to approach political candidates now?
    -Is that how we should approach Hillary then?
    -If not, why not?
    -When Trump said that Planned Parenthood does ‘wonderful work’ was he telling the truth or not?
    -When Trump insisted that his radical pro-abort sister would make a ‘phenomenal’ SCOTUS justice, was he telling the truth or not?
    -When he says he is now prolife, is he telling the truth or not?
    -Just which Donald Trump are you going to run with and put your trust in?
    -How do you know when Trump is telling the truth and when he is lying?
    -Does it even matter that he lies so much and changes his policies so much?
    -Is that what principled and consistent conservatism now means?
    -Is this the best Christians and conservatives can now come up with? Crass political pragmatism and expediency at all costs?
    -Is that how we are going to make America great again?
    -Is that how we are going to save the Republic?
    -And how does any of this rank expediency and blind trust in politics differ from liberalism?

    I await your answers thanks.

  • Thanks Tas. There are all sorts of alternatives of course. There are other political parties or independents one can run with. One can also do a write-in vote for a Cruz or someone. And of course Trump has not even secured the nomination yet. Anything can happen between now and the convention, and many more things can happen between then and the election.

  • I do care about “a number of issues”, however I find the right to life the most important, as I explained. If one cannot care about the weakest, who can they care for.

    As for lying, yes, I do believe ALL politicians pander to the group they are speaking to. They all want to appeal to whatever voting block they are attempting to get the votes of at that time. If one is speaking to a group of Latinos, he is probably going to go light on the immigration issue, not knowing how many out there are illegal, (unless they check “green cards at the door!!) Whereas if he is speaking to a group of people that have lost their jobs to illegal immigrants who are protesting this very thing, he is going to be promising up and down to build walls, enforce the border…..they are ALL going to make promises out the wazoo that the crowd they are speaking to wants to hear!! That is what I am saying. Yes, of course “some are more trustworthy than others”. That is with all people. You say he is a lifelong liar? Hillary isn’t???? She got fired from the Watergate investigation for lying and unethical behavior!!
    Yes, Trump supports the “bathroom issue” but Hilly does too, as I wrote on one of your posts. I think this is going to have to be settled then by SCOTUS and Governors. We then need to make sure we have a Conservative SCOTUS. Hilly has promised it will be a Liberal SCOTUS for generations.
    As for your other questions, I told you, I do not go by his words, talk is cheap, I go by actions. Hillary has been pretty consistent I believe in her actions for as long as we have known her, and even before, back to the Nixon Admin. Trump, as I said I am still waiting to see who he picks as VP and his further actions until Nov. We have two choices, and to me, Hillary is unthinkable. I wanted Cruz too. To me he was another Reagan, but my nation, disappointingly rejected that. As for the alternatives, you know a “write in” or third party has no hope, and will pretty much divide the votes and help Hillary win. As for “anything can happen between now and the convention” etc, I actually am praying for a miracle and that a viable alternative will present itself.

  • Thanks Michelle. So you only go by actions? Really? So which of these actions are you supporting of Trump:

    -all the failed marriages?
    -all the women he boasts about bedding?
    -his strip clubs?
    -his casinos?
    -all the collapsed business ventures?
    -his four bankruptcies?
    -his lifelong funding of Democratic and leftist causes?
    -his funding of Planned Parenthood?
    -his funding of the Clintons?
    -his funding of homosexual activist groups, including the groups promoting homosexuality in kindergartens?

    Sorry, if you will blindly ignore all that (and there are plenty more ACTIONS I could mention here) and believe without a shred of evidence that he is going to somehow save the unborn, then this is delusion of the highest order. That is the mark of a cult member sorry. There is no other way to explain it. I am just so sad and so shocked to see this to be honest. This is exactly why we lose with so many people going down this path.

    And sorry, but your inability or unwillingness to answer my questions is most telling indeed. I am not at all on the same page with you, and sadly I think this is exactly why Hillary will get in. It breaks my heart. The only thing I can agree with you is praying for a miracle. That is our only hope. Certainly cultish faith in Trump is not our hope – it is our undoing.

  • Dear Bill,

    The plain facts are that it is beginning to look more and more likely that there is no alternative to Donald Trump and Hilary is not much better. However, you never know and certainly US Catholics can take some of the blame if he becomes President just as some German Catholics can take some of the blame for Hitler becoming Chancellor before World War 2 because they make compromises with evil. Jesus said ”By their fruits you will know them”. and that is what we should go by.

  • https://www.lifesitenews.com/blogs/todays-stories-reveal-the-decisions-we-will-all-have-to-make-for-good-or-ev

    Someone forceful is needed to oppose liberalism in all its manifestations, their ultimate aim is to destroy Christianity.

    Someone powerful who can deal with them at their level is needed. This is a time of war and a warrior is needed. Trump is being maligned but what Hilary stands for is utterly despicable. This is no time for a perfect candidate but rather an effective candidate that can take stand up to the bullies.

  • Thanks Julian. So you are going to put all your faith is an immoral lifelong leftist and pagan to save Christianity and stop leftism? Really? And who said anything about a perfect candidate? That is called a red herring. And a lifelong leftist bully is going to protect us from leftist bullies? Really? And an effective candidate? You mean the guy with numerous failed marriages, numerous failed business ventures, four bankruptcies, etc. etc. You call that effective? Really? Sorry, but that is pretty strong Kool-Aid some folks are drinking!

  • A new article is well worth reading. People are really getting unhinged when they try to tell me Trump is another Reagan. Do not insult Reagan with that baloney:

    http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2016/05/trump_is_the_antireagan.html

  • Christians have been voting for political parties that pass laws and uphold policies contrary to God’s commands. Trump is not the issue here. Rather it is Christians who habitually vote for political parties that maintain laws God hates – no fault divorce, homosexuality, law reform, abortion, etc. If Christians really want to make a difference in the public square they first need to drop the idea that voting for secular political parties is some sort of Christian duty. It isn’t.

  • I am so glad that America has other options than just Hillary or Trump. Otherwise, if I was an American voter and I am glad I am not, I find their voting system far too complicated, I would find it almost more principled to not vote though of course Hillary would get in if conservatives don’t vote, but I have one thing good to say about Hillary, she is probably less of a liar than Trump, maybe she feels she is beyond having to lie to get there. Like Hitler who wrote his book telling everyone what he was going to do when he was put into office, nobody believed him.
    As to the Catholic or Protestants who support Trump, I think it just shows that the label you wear doesn’t matter, what matters and what will show in your understanding of reality and the word of God and in your actions is how deeply you are rooted in God’s word and in the personal relationship you have with your only saviour Jesus Christ.
    I believe in the end in that will be found the courage we need to not only swim against the tide but to stand when swimming is no longer possible.
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

  • The only alternative is Hillary Clinton and she clearly states policies that are completely anti-family. She calls people at Planned Parenthood her friends and officially endorses numerous things against Christian practice. She would have no problem with the complete erasure of Christianity from the West so that the Sexual Revolution can completely change things. Obama has threatened public schools with removal of funding if bathrooms are not open to both genders. You think she will change this? So I suppose your condoning voting for Hilary because not voting has no impact. You have to give an alternative not just talk down one person.

  • Thanks Julian. You say you are profamily. So am I. So why in the world are you shrilling for a guy who changes his wives as often as his shirts, who brags about all the women he has bedded, and who says the best thing there is, is a good ‘piece of a*s’, and how hot he thinks his daughters look? Is that how you show your profamily credentials?

    You say you are prolife and concerned about PP. So am I. So why in the world are you shrilling for Trump who has often praised PP and says it does “wonderful work” and has donated millions to leftist, pro-abort causes? Is that how you show your prolife credentials?

    And you say you are worried about the trans agenda. So am I. So why in the world are you shrilling for Trump who says we should not change laws to keep men out of girls’ bathrooms? Is that how you show your concern for little girls?

    And you say you want to defend Christianity. So do I. So why in the world are you shrilling for the pagan Trump who does not have a Christian bone in his body, and regularly attacks Christian leaders? Is that how you show concern for Christianity?

    I find it mind boggling that you say one thing, yet you fully betray everything you just said by your support of the most radical, perverted, immoral, lying leftist Republican in recent memory! Mind boggling really.

    And putting words into my mouth is called bearing false witness, which is a sin. I do not condone voting for Hillary because she stands against everything I believe in. For the exact same reason, I do not condone voting for Trump. And of course there are other options available here, so spare us the false dilemma.

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