Where is the Catholic voice on Donald Trump’s outrageous affronts to human dignity, the common good, solidarity and subsidiarity? These are the fundamental principles of social justice that the American bishops say that we Catholics must use when evaluating the political landscape in this election year. Trump’s appalling, vituperative, demeaning comments about women, immigrants, African Americans, Muslims, disabled persons and so many more reveal a truly disordered amoral conscience, a lack of fundamental respect and charity toward human beings that is so fundamental to understanding and upholding the right to life and human dignity. He is shameless in his voracious narcissism; people seem to exist for his pleasure alone, and if anyone does not suit his fancy, that person is discarded, trashed, mocked, degraded. He has said absolutely nothing about the relief of poverty, care and concern for the poor, the desirability of peace, the care for creation. Quite the opposite, he brags about paying no taxes for decades, has a track record of failing to pay his just debts to contractors, threatens to wage war immediately if elected, and denies climate change. He led a shameful years-long racist attack on President Obama’s citizenship and legitimacy as our twice-elected president; he whips up racial hatred, enjoys the support of white supremacists including KKK leaders, and panders to the violent hatreds and fears of people who are feeling left out of the national economic recovery.
In my remarks at the Cap & Gown Convocation, I tried to sketch out the choices we face in this election year without naming names. Citizens may vote as they please, and I understand that we may disagree on the issues and the candidates. But this is not a normal presidential campaign, and the events of the last week compel me to speak out more specifically, and to urge other leaders to do the same.
As president of a women’s college, I must denounce Donald Trump’s repeated horrific and degrading assaults on women. His misogyny is breathtaking. He treats women as property, as playthings, as objects to use and discard. As the leader of a university that is a remarkably diverse community of African Americans, Latinas, Catholics, Christians, Muslims, Dreamers, immigrants, persons with many different abilities, many languages, often deeply impoverished financially but all sharing the hopes and dreams of a better life through education, I have to stand up for the people of the Trinity community who are mocked and degraded by Trump’s repeated offenses against human dignity. He represents the opposite of all that we try to teach our students about honor and integrity, respect for others, service and good citizenship.
Where is the Catholic voice on the urgent problem of Donald Trump? In Faithful Citizenship, the bishops’ document on the civic responsibilities of Catholics in an election year, the bishops are careful to say that the clergy should avoid endorsing or opposing candidates while, at the same time, teaching the faithful about the moral issues at stake in the election and helping to form consciences to make good choices at the ballot box. In a normal political election cycle, this is quite right. But this is not a normal election, and the crisis of this political moment presents a clear and present danger to all people of faith and moral concern.
Respecting the overall idea that priests and bishops should not tell people how to vote, at the present moment our nation faces an extraordinarily debased candidate whose potential election would be catastrophic for the moral fabric of our society. This is not about reasonable and even impassioned debate over issues of law and public policy where we Catholics have plenty of disagreements with both sides of the aisle. Hillary Clinton certainly is not a perfect candidate, and we can debate many of her positions with regard to Catholic social teachings.
But we are electing a president, not a pope, and perfect alignment between moral ideals and political realities is impossible, as the bishops know all too well. Reasonable compromise and a commitment to keep the dialogue open with elected officials is essential.
Donald Trump manifests no disposition to reasonable compromise, open dialogue, and a commitment to find common ground to build a better society together. He even goes so far as to claim the election might be “rigged” and threatens to foment rebellion if he is not elected. He is a dangerous demagogue who is a shameful example of what happens when other politicians, civic and social leaders do not have the spine to stand up to a charlatan.
Catholic leaders need to raise their voices NOW. Donald Trump betrays our American values as well as our Catholic values; his behavior and statements across decades make a mockery of the principles of social justice. We must raise our voices against the real danger he poses to our values, our freedoms, our commitment to justice and peace.