I just watched a little of an extraordinary video from a fundamentalist christian posted on facebook that seems to have attracted some interest from fundamentalist traditionalists. Apart from pandering outright lies and misinformation (such as claims that the ALP platform and/or Julia Gillard supports homosexual marriage, which is clearly not the case), it continues to argue the case that a Catholic cannot vote for the Labor party in good conscience
Why voting for your local member is important
So let me put to you a scenario.
Imagine you happen to live in an electorate (such as the electorate of Wentworth, where the Liberal candidate is one Malcolm Turnbull) where the Liberal candidate is anti-life and has voted in support of human cloning and in support of RU 486 in the Parliament.
Could a catholic in conscience vote for a candidate that clearly supports the culture of death, even though the leader of the party to which they belong takes a different view?
On the argument put about supporting a culture of death, clearly the answer is no. This would be a case of directly supporting a known evil, rather than indirectly supporting someone who only has one vote on a 'conscience' issue anyway.
But what if the alternative candidate is also anti-life (an only too real possibility - certainly the Labor candidate in Wentworth has come out in favour of homosexual marriage)?
One could vote for an independent/minor parties of course, but if they have no hope of being elected, your preferences will eventually flow to one or the other of the main candidates, so you still have to choose between the two parties. It seems to me that its at this point that questions about the leaders and the policies of the two parties become relevant.
Perhaps there is a second order argument that such issues are not likely to come up again in the near future, and so other issues are more important. Or that life issues are more important in our system for Senate candidates, other issues more important for House of Representative candidates.
But in any case, it is worth noting that on core issues such as the protection of traditional marriage, there is in practice no difference between the parties. So once again, in this scenario at least, it comes down to how much weight one puts on the merits or otherwise of the leaders vs policies in an indirect electoral system such as ours.
What the bishops have to say
I pointed to the helpful ACL site yesterday - shame neither Cath News or the Australian Bishop's Conference haven't done something similar. Once this appalling non-campaign is over, I think catholics who care need to have a serious think about how to ensure this policy-free zone never happens again (a funding mechanism to promote and support pro-life candidates of any party might be a good start).
But in the meantime there are two pieces of advice one might want to take note of. The first is a guide to principles to keep in mind, and notes on some of the key issues from the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council.
The other is an essay by Bishop Manning on the importance of avoiding indifference and actually participating in the process.