The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 45 days before the elections, has shaken an already turbulent season. For many voters, Supreme Court picks are an important issue in choosing the candidate they will support.
Saturday, Sep. 26, President Trump officially nominated Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. She is a pro-life Catholic, a brilliant jurist and the mother of seven children. How will her confirmation process affect the Catholic vote in general in the coming election?
The news headlines in recent days could help to frame that question since they touched several of the main issues that will be in the minds of voters in just four weeks.
On Sep. 22, the United States reached 200,000 deaths due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a horrifying number, of course, but when you put it in perspective it is even worse. During the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-1919, 50 million people died around the world. Americans accounted for one out of every 74 people dying in the Spanish Flu pandemic. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans account for one out of every five victims worldwide. Whatever the causes are, it is a number that will be relevant when judging the administration’s response to the coronavirus crisis.
Also on Sep. 22, William Emmett LeCroy, 50, was executed by lethal injection at the same U.S. prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, where five others have been executed in 2020 following a 17-year lapse without a federal execution.
Two days before, the U.S. bishops had made a strong appeal: “We say to President Trump and Attorney General Barr: Enough. Stop these executions.”
The following day, Sep. 23, President Donald Trump announced that he would sign an executive order to ensure that babies born alive are given proper medical care. The goal is to ensure that all babies born alive, including those born prematurely, or ones that survive abortions, receive medical care. He signed the order on Sep. 25. A vast majority of Americans favor a ban on the gruesome procedure of third-trimester abortions.
While Catholic doctrine teaches that human life starts at conception, the abortion of viable babies is revolting even for people who support legal abortion at the early stages of the pregnancy.
On Sep. 23, we read about the protest in Louisville after the state attorney general of Kentucky announced that a grand jury did not bring any charges for the six police bullets that struck Breonna Taylor, a Black woman. Instead, they presented lesser charges against one of the white policemen for stray shots that hit the neighboring apartment.
The following day, we have learned that there were a total of 870,000 initial jobless claims in the week ending Sept. 19. The number is still about four times pre-pandemic levels.
The same day, when asked whether he’d commit to a peaceful transition, President Trump answered: “Well, we’re going to have to see what happens.”
It was a stunning statement. A peaceful transition of power has been a cornerstone of American Democracy for 223 years.
The president has also said several times that the coronavirus will just disappear. It is sadly still with us, as those 200,000 deaths show. And its effects on the economy, as the unemployment numbers indicate, will be felt for a long time.
Racial tensions and the specter of racism are still poisoning our society. Like the coronavirus, they won’t disappear by themselves. Overcoming those two viruses will require the concerted efforts of our whole nation. The defense of human life, from conception to natural death, is — and will always be — a moral imperative for Catholics.
Reality won’t confirm our political preferences. We are responsible for forming our conscience as Catholics and making that decision.