Senator John McCain announced yesterday the formation of an advocacy group called "Catholics for McCain." Its steering and national leadership committees are composed of 100 Republican political figures, with no theologians or prominent Catholic writers. A careful analysis of Mr McCain's record on issues that are uniquely important to Catholics reveals a minefield of reasons why Catholics are likely to be very skeptical of the McCain candidacy.
Overall, Sen. McCain's stance on preemptive war, his plans for the continued expenditure of vast sums for war in Iraq, and his recent backtracking on torture are all in direct conflict with the recommendations of both the US Bishops and the Vatican. His openness to working toward abortion reduction through measures other than reversing Roe-v-Wade is indistinguishable from his Democratic opponents, as is his stance in favor of regulated embryonic stem cell research. In summary, Sen. McCain stands in opposition to Church teaching on the defining peace issue of our time, and has taken positions on social issues that have often made his views indistinguishable from most Democrats.
On the individual issues, first is John McCain's unapologetic salesmanship for the disastrous invasion of Iraq. Pope John Paul II called it a "defeat for humanity." Pope Benedict XVI declared before the invasion that the "concept of a 'preventive war' does not appear in the Catechism of the Catholic Church," and said that Iraq could not be construed as a just war under Catholic doctrine. Prior to the invasion, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops issued 19 separate statements condemning the preparations for war in Iraq. Sen. McCain and President Bush ignored them all, putting the US economic interests in the Middle East, and the tipsy calculus about non-existent weapons programs, ahead of the lives and wellbeing of 25 million Iraqis and two million US military families. In the past two days, 8 US soldiers have been killed en route to the 4000th casualty as the five-year anniversary of the invasion approaches next week. John McCain is out of step with most Americans and most Catholics, who think Iraq never should have been invaded and believe that the US should withdraw as soon as possible.
Second, Sen. McCain's commitment to continue the Bush occupation of Iraq means the ongoing waste of truly staggering sums of American tax dollars there. The Nobel Prize winner and former chief economist of the World Bank, Joseph Stiglitz, projected last week that overall costs to the US would reach $3 trillion for the Iraq misadventure, the equivalent of an entire year's worth of the federal budget. Dr. Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University has estimated that extreme world poverty could be eliminated by 2025 by spending only 0.7% of US gross national product, a figure less than the $3 trillion cost of the Iraq war. Plans put forth by both of the Democratic presidential candidates anticipate costs less than this to provide medical insurance for 20 years to everyone in America.
Every dollar spent by the Bush/McCain coalition to continue the fighting in Iraq is a dollar robbed from the urgent needs of poor children across America and around the world. Sen. McCain is out of line when it comes to the wishes of most Americans and most Catholics, who think that staying in Iraq is a monumental waste of resources.
Third, Sen. McCain has backed away from his initial opposition to torture, voting earlier this month against HR2082, a bill vetoed by President Bush that would have outlawed water boarding. The American bishops strongly urged Mr Bush to sign the legislation. Catholicism is a religion built upon the words and example of someone who was Himself tortured to death, and no amount of "I was against torture before I was for it" can justify this kind of incivility toward other human beings. Sen. McCain is out of touch with most Americans and most Catholics, who support the historical US opposition to torture.
Finally, on the subject of abortion, Sen. McCain has made statements in the past indicating that his own views are close to those of the Democratic candidates. In a 1999 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, he said, "Certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to (have) illegal and dangerous operations." Like both of the Democratic candidates, Sen. McCain has spoken affirmatively of finding "common ground" on the subject of abortion. In New Hampshire in 1999, he said, "Both pro-life & pro-choice people believe very strongly that we need to eliminate abortion."
He has advocated measures like encouraging adoption and better foster care as a means to decreasing the number of abortions in America. He failed to vote in October 2007 on HR3043, a bill vetoed by President Bush that included Democratic abortion reduction legislation. He has been ambiguous in his support for a constitutional amendment banning abortion. Like most Catholics, and most Democrats, Sen. McCain has spoken against penalizing women for abortion, and has urged conciliatory efforts to bring down the number of abortions.
More recently, Sen McCain has indicated he would appoint only judges who "would not be in the business of legislating." Like many elements of his distinguished record of studied dissent, he has been forced to walk a more doctrinaire line in pursuit of the Republican presidential nomination.
The Gospels save their harshest condemnation for those who fail to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, or welcome the stranger (Mt 25:41). The McCain/Bush vision of America is one that continues to pour vast sums of money into the black hole of Iraq rather than addressing the underlying causes of misery and poverty that are the true security threats in our world. Senator McCain is an honorable man. But his newfound devotion to soft-headed Bushonomics, and the 'us-versus-them' rhetoric that have so severely damaged our world the past eight years, cannot be supported by any honest reading of Catholic Social Teaching.