Campaign Corner: Are You A Pope Francis Voter? - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Dawn Morais Webster

Dawn Morais Webster has had a corporate career and now works with nonprofits on issues vital to community well-being. She is also an adjunct instructor in the Honors Program at the University of Hawaii, Manoa. She blogs at

The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg less than 50 days before the presidential election makes the Catholic vote more critical than ever. In a 2006 interview, Justice Ginsburg spoke of skipping the annual Red Mass because she did not want to subject herself to lectures by the bishops on abortion.

One Catholic group has launched a nearly $10 million dollar campaign against Joe Biden largely around this single issue. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has frequently lent the stamp of its approval to Donald Trump. Cardinal Timothy Dolan praised Trump’s leadership on COVID-19 earlier this year, acknowledging the President, reliably accused of sexual assaults he himself brags about, as “a great gentleman.”

But as Fr. David Gierlach, Rector of St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church, who was schooled in Catholic theology, points out, “Faith dies when it cozies up to the status quo; and because of decades of such cozying, faith these days is gasping for air.”

In our current climate of anxiety and division, with more than 200,000 dead from COVID-19, all Christians should feel more acutely than ever the calling “to plant the seeds of compassion, financial equity, racial justice and recompense, truth, kindness and hope,” added Fr. David. Because once again, those who have already been struggling with poverty and discrimination are feeling the worst impact of COVID-19.

Pope Francis in Venezuela in 2016. Flickr: Long Thiên

St. Elizabeth’s is situated smack in the middle of hard-hit Kalihi. It hosts the Catholic Worker House known as Wallyhouse — and has seen the numbers who turn up daily for food assistance quadruple.

Catholics played a significant role in ensuring the election of Donald Trump. But after nearly four years there is no denying that he has undermined many key institutions. Trump himself offers conspiracy theories about a “Deep State” as justification and dismisses both investigative journalism and simple reporting of his own words and actions as “fake news.”

It’s a term parroted by others. It is the antithesis of ideas America has previously worked hard to export: the value of a robust press, and checks and balances in government.

Trump has peddled his often conflicting narratives to a base that is only too willing to buy the version of reality dispensed by a TV star turned president of the United States.

Cues From The Pontiff

But if celebrity is what makes us attentive to the world we live in, Catholics can take their cue from their own “star” — “A good Catholic,” says Pope Francis, “meddles in politics.”

Pope Francis urges us to look at the world through a lens that lets us see the sacredness of life in everyone: citizen and refugee, old and young, rich and poor, the incarcerated, the oppressed, those who look different from us, and the desperate who cannot advocate for themselves.

Pope Francis calls for political leaders who are “outstanding for honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good.” He has been clear that we “cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life.”

Forty percent of U.S. households are at or near poverty level. Meanwhile the top 1% will reap the biggest benefit from Trump’s tax cuts, with the top .01% now taking in nearly 200 times as much as the bottom 90%. That level of grotesque inequality should make us all recoil.

The epidemic of homelessness makes it clear that the so-called “minimum wage,” once conceived to ensure that everyone would be able to enjoy “a decent living” is insufficient for survival. No wonder Pope Francis asks us to elect leaders who will address the needs of the most vulnerable, not just the most powerful or the well-connected.

There is a helpful tool — the Pope Francis Voter quiz — that invites Catholics (and all who admire Pope Francis) to consider where they stand on some core issues. Take it. Share it. It’s a simple, short quiz.

Wally Inglis, a local Catholic peace activist, was surprised on taking the quiz, to find no reference to Pope Francis’ advocacy for nonviolence and opposition to war and nuclear weapons. Inglis points out that in his 2019 visit to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Pope condemned the very possession of nuclear arms as “immoral.”

He went on to say: “In a world where millions of children and families live in inhumane conditions, the money that is squandered and fortunes made through the manufacture, upgrading, maintenance, and sale of ever more destructive weapons are an affront crying out to heaven.”

The Vatican was the first of 84 nations to sign the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons — a treaty the United States refuses to acknowledge. Locally, Catholic activists have taken to the courts to hold the U.S. Navy accountable for its handling and storage of nuclear ordnance in Hawaii. That struggle continues to this day.

Clearly there is more to being pro-life than simply being against abortion. Stephen Schneck, a retired professor at the Catholic University of America said this to an online audience of Catholics for Biden: “In his four harrowing years, President Trump has proven himself to be, in my estimation, the least pro-life president in history.”

Pope Francis asks us to elect leaders who will address the needs of the most vulnerable.

He was alluding to Trump’s efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and his mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Timothy Shriver, the former head of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, asked Catholics to concern themselves with the rights of workers, environmental stewardship and access to health and child care because these are all pro-life issues as well.

John Carr, who has long helped the U.S. bishops write their guidance on voting said recently that “describing abortion as the pre-eminent priority is an incomplete and overly narrow moral criterion.” He declares that “I will vote for Mr. Biden for what he can do to help us recover and heal, lift up those left behind, ensure health care for all and treat immigrants and refugees with respect. I will not vote for him to support his position on abortion, but in spite of it.”

The votes of Hawaii’s Catholics — and all the people of Hawaii — truly matter this year. Let’s listen to Sr. Simone Campbell, executive director of the Network Lobby led by Catholic sisters, who invites us to honor the values we share and remove the blinders that single-issue politics places on our vision of the world.

Note: Hawaii is an all vote by mail state now. Click here to be sure the Office of Elections has your correct address so you too can “meddle in politics” as every citizen should.

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About the Author

Dawn Morais Webster

Dawn Morais Webster has had a corporate career and now works with nonprofits on issues vital to community well-being. She is also an adjunct instructor in the Honors Program at the University of Hawaii, Manoa. She blogs at

Latest Comments (0)

"Wally Inglis, a local Catholic peace activist, was surprised on taking the quiz, to find no reference to Pope Francis’ advocacy for nonviolence and opposition to war and nuclear weapons." - This is no accident: from being a party advocating peaceful coexistence, the party that authored this quiz has turned into a party of endless war. Back in 1998, I had a chance to share a dinner and speak at length with a gentleman who was one of the central forces behind (and in) the highly acclaimed film Berkeley in the Sixties. His tale of those events was full of both romanticism and gore. A broad coalition that ranged from hippies to the Young Republicans came together to fight for free speech and to demand an end to the senseless wars in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. "It was a time of unity and clarity," he said, and proceeded to criticize Bill Clinton's interventionism doctrine and those who support it. Things went only downhill from there.

Chiquita · 2 years ago

As a life long Catholic, the quiz looks like a Biden ad and nothing else. You would probably have no charity in your heart if you flunked the test. You can "support" but with limitations and get a passing score, I did.

Vandy63 · 2 years ago

This partisan piece is an obvious co-opting of Catholic religious concerns. It takes the from-the-start 95%-negative media coverage of the President (obviously hostile and often gossip-endorsing with anonymous-source 'narratives') and whitewashes it as 'investigative journalism.' Why do investigators all wipe their phones? It takes the President's peace-making deals and his reversal of 8-years of war-mongering (remember Libya, drone-killings, cash to the mullahs, knowing stand-down permitting ISIS horrors) and blackwashes this with generic military spending being bad.  Factually most middle class incomes have moved UP, not down.  And 40% in/near poverty? You can't whitewash rampant abortion focused in minority communities with this kind of political cover. Who is 'cozying up' to the state - this kind of talk, or the first pro-life march-attending President?

Haleiwa_Dad · 2 years ago

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