On November 6, Townhall.com published an article by a Roman Catholic priest, Father Marcel Guarnizo. As a lifelong Roman Catholic and a Donald Trump supporter, I find this article disappointing both intellectually and morally. Below, in boldfaced print, are Guarnizo’s main points. They are followed by my responses.
Arguing against Donald Trump’s Christian supporters, Guarnizo insists that the Republican presidential nominee is not the “lesser of two evils.” Thus, contrary to what their leaders would have them think, it is not “morally necessary” for believers to vote for Trump.
For starters, no Christian of whom I’m aware, and certainly no Catholic Christian, would support anything if it was held to be the “lesser of two evils.” The reason for this is simple: The lesser of two evils is still an evil. Father Guarnizo knows this. But so too do the Christian leaders who he excoriates know this.
In short, that it is not Christian charity but bad faith from which Guarnizo contends against his fellow Christians is gotten from the fact that he makes a strawman of their most basic justification for voting for Trump. The latter isn’t an “evil,” whether lesser or not. Rather, given the realistic range of options available to believers in these specific circumstances, the GOP nominee, these Christians believe, is a morally good choice.
The appropriation of “God’s name for the sake of very dubious temporal political aims, to serve Trump,” is a proposition that “needs to be soundly rejected.”
In addition to the fallacy of strawman, Father Guarnizo makes it clear here that he has a fondness for the fallacy of amphiboly. The latter occurs when the arguer deliberately words himself in a loose, awkward manner so as to confuse or mislead. Consider: Is it the invocation of God’s name for the sake of (a) temporal political aims, (b) “dubious” political aims, or (c) dubious political aims that “serve Trump” to which Guarnizo objects?
If it is (a) to which Guarnizo refers, then he casts himself far beyond the bounds of orthodox Christianity, for the latter has always recognized the legitimacy of establishing a connection between God and politics.
If it is (b) to which Father Guarnizo speaks, then he commits but another fallacy, that of “begging the question.” He assumes what needs to be proven in assuming that the political aims for the sake of which his opponents have invoked God’s name are “dubious.” If they are dubious, then it goes without saying that the invocation of God to vindicate them “needs to be soundly rejected.” But are they dubious? This Father Guarnizo must establish.
If it is (c) to which Guarnizo objects, then, again, he begs the question. If it is legitimate to invoke God to justify political aims that serve some politicians and parties, then it cannot be a priori illegitimate to do the same if it “serves Trump.” Presumably, it is illegitimate to take this approach if it advances Trump’s campaign because Trump’s political aims are “dubious.” This is poor reasoning: Guarnizo needs first to specify those of Trump’s—and his tens of millions of supporters’—aims that are dubious and then explain how and why they are so.
This election choice is not a “binary” one. Citizens can write in someone’s name, vote third party, refrain from voting at all, etc. It is wrong for Trump’s supporters to ascribe responsibility for a Clinton victory to those Christians who simply didn’t vote for Trump.
Given that American citizens have never been legally compelled to vote, I’d be willing to bet dollars to donuts that everyone is well aware that the choice on Election Day is not literally a “binary” one. However, while Father Guarnizo is correct to maintain that refusal of the individual as an individual to vote for Trump is not necessarily the moral equivalent of a vote for Clinton, there are some nuances that he overlooks.
First, if, collectively, believers can stop the one person whose political and legislative history has revealed her to be by far and away the most hostile of the presidential candidates to the cause of protecting the unborn, then, collectively, their refusal to vote for Trump is indeed, for practical purposes, a vote for Clinton. Formally, multiple choices are available to voting believers. In practice, either Clinton or Trump will become the next president.
Hence, the only way to prevent an enthusiastic backer of the right of mothers to slaughter their offspring is by voting for her opponent who, whatever else Father Guarnizo says about him, has no past of enacting policies to strengthen abortion and has expressly stated on record that he is pro-life.
Second, some pro-life Christians aren’t merely refraining from casting their vote for Trump. Some of them, like Father Guarnizo, have labored to convince other Christians to do the same. They have expended time and energy to ensure that Trump loses. Yet to ensure that Trump loses is, in practice, to ensure that Clinton—to repeat, the one candidate with the most abysmal record on the life question, the one candidate who doesn’t even pretend to be anything but an ardent supporter of abortion—wins.
And this is unconscionable—if, that is, it is wrong for Christians to lend any aid and comfort to those who plan upon using the power of the state to ensure that abortion at any stage during the pregnancy until partial-birth remains legal.
But Trump isn’t just “flawed.” Trump is “an unmitigated disaster” who is “intellectually underdeveloped as a candidate (very likely suffering from attention deficit disorder, acutely); he seems morally depraved; he has assaulted women as he bragged; he likely has psychopathy and narcissistic clinical disorder.” Father Guarnizo adds: “He simply seems to many of us mentally not competent to serve as president of the United States.”
Guarnizo adds another fallacy, the old ad hominem attack, to his growing list of broken arguments. He could’ve spared us the pretense of rationality and objectivity with which he tries—and fails—to adorn his analysis by getting to the point earlier: Trump is a stupid, degenerate, psychopathic rapist.
Father Marcel Guarnizo may be a man of the cloth, but he is not speaking as a religious leader. Guarnizo is not only using harsher language to characterize Trump than other Catholic leaders have, he is also being dishonest in his description of Trump.
Although Trump insists that he is a Christian, Guarnizo doesn’t believe it. Trump’s “behavior” and “history,” he says, seem “plausibly inconsistent with everything we know of the spirit of Christ.”
Though it brings this Catholic no joy in saying this, I believe that what you, Father, have written hereseems “plausibly inconsistent with everything we know of the spirit of Christ.”
Christ, after all, is Truth.