Deacon Walter C. Ayres
Deacon Walter C. Ayres

Last week’s mass shooting in Texas highlights once again the dilemma that faces all ­pro-life Catholics: Do we vote for the politician who opposes abortion or the one who supports reasonable gun legislation? Rare­ly can we do both.

It is no secret that the Republican Party supports the Catholic position on abortion while the Democrats favor our approach to gun violence.

Gun rights groups such as the National Rifle Association do not have this problem. They have one issue and one issue only. Politicians are either with them or against them. But Catholics have a range of issues in the pro-life arena.

Too many “pro-life” politicians oppose any of the Church’s reasonable efforts to address the issue of gun violence. These include a total ban on assault weapons, universal background checks, limits on civilian access to high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines, and regulations on the purchases of handguns.

We can ask ourselves, “Which is harder to face? The hundreds of thousands of abortions that occur out of sight in our country each year or the fewer but more visible stories of children and other innocents being gunned down as they go about their daily lives?” It is a difficult choice but these are not the only options we have.

Perhaps it is time to stop letting politicians divide us. Maybe we need to demand that they support the Church position on both issues. Either they are all in or we are all out. Instead of worrying about how we are going to deal with them, let them worry about how to deal with us.

If we chose to sit out an election, politicians might quickly realize that they need us as much, if not more, than we need them. The result could lead to a few difficult years on the electoral scene, but it just might revolutionize American politics. And maybe that is just what we need.

Walter Ayres is the director for Catholic Charities’ Commission on Peace and Justice.